The Marine Corps is working to build up its own sizable fleet of boats as it postures itself for future combat in shallow coastal waters and dispersed across large stretches of land and water.
Maj. Gen. David Coffman, the Navy’s director of expeditionary warfare, said the service wants to find new ways to put conventional forces on small watercraft for operations ranging from raids to insertions and river operations.
Typically, small boats have been the territory of Marine Corps and Navy special operations and specialized forces, such as the Coastal Riverines.
But, Coffman said, he has received guidance from Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller to change that.
“If we were to claim any moniker, we want to be the father of the 1,000-boat Navy,” Coffman said at a Navy League event near Washington, D.C., in late November.
Currently, he said, Naval Expeditionary Warfare is resource sponsor to about 800 small boats, including combatant craft, Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boats, and smaller craft. While the precise numbers desired haven’t been settled on, he suggested 1,000 boats is close to what’s needed.
“The Marine Corps largely got out of what we call itty bitty boats … the commandant wants us to get back in the boat business,” Coffman said. “He’s recognizing he needs to distribute his force and be able to move in smaller discrete elements and different ways.”
The strategy for employing these boats is still being developed, but Coffman said the Marine Corps wants to be able to cover a wider range of maritime operations. The service, he said, likely wants to develop a family of small boats, ranging from high-tech combatant craft like those used in special operations to lower-end craft for harbor escorts and troop transport.
A good starting point for discussion, he said, is the 11-meter Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat, or RHIB, used by the Navy SEALs for a variety of missions and by Naval Expeditionary Warfare for things like maritime interdiction and transport to and from larger ships.
That design, Coffman said, would be easy to “sex up or simple down” as needed.
For the Marine Corps, small boat employment has largely focused on protecting larger ships, Coffman told Military.com in a brief interview.
“A lot of my theme is trying to flip the script, move from defensive to offensive,” he said.
With the Navy’s riverine forces increasingly employed in the Middle East to defend ships, there’s less availability for other small boat missions that could press the advantage. But with an investment in a new family of watercraft, that could change.
“That’s part of how you counter the peer threat: ‘I’ll out-asymmetric you,’ ” Coffman said. “So [Neller is] excited about that, that work’s going to happen.”
Firefighters battle a fire aboard the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. John J. Mike)
A devastating fire continues to spread throughout the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, a US Navy official revealed in an update Monday, over 24 hours after the ship burst into flames.
Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, told reporters that the fire, which is believed to have originated in the lower vehicle storage area, has damaged the superstructure, collapsed the masts, and spread to the bow.
Sobeck said at the moment it is believed that there are two decks standing between a fire as hot as 1,000 degrees in some places and about 1 million gallons of fuel, but he said that while the risk of the fire reaching the fuel was “absolutely a concern,” the response team would “make sure” the fire does not reach the fuel.
With all the water that has been dumped onto the ship, the Bonhomme Richard is listing on its side. Navy helicopters alone have dumped 415 buckets of water on the ship.
And a total of 57 people, including 34 sailors and 23 civilians, have suffered injuries, such as smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion. Five remain in the hospital.
He added: “We’re just going to get right back at it once we get this thing contained and put out.”
On Monday, he reiterated that he remained hopeful.
There are more than 400 sailors battling the blaze aboard the Bonhomme Richard. “We’re doing everything we can,” the admiral said, adding that the Navy responders would “make every effort to save the ship.”
Firefighters battle a fire aboard the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christina Ross)
‘Hell in a very small space’
The ongoing fight aboard the ship is intense. “Shipboard fires are enormously hard to fight,” retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former NATO commander, wrote on Twitter Monday.
“Having been through a couple, I can tell you they are hell in a very small space,” he said. With temperatures as high as they are in some places on the ship, sailors are rotating in and out on 15-minute firefighting shifts.
The specific cause of the fire is unknown and will likely remain unknown until the fire can be extinguished.
The ship was undergoing maintenance at Naval Base San Diego when the fire ignited.
“At least some, if not all of, the major firefighting systems are tagged out for maintenance,” retired US Navy Capt. Earle Yerger, the former commander of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, told Insider. Sobeck confirmed that the Halon fire-suppression system was not active.
Furthermore, “in the yards, you have multiple cables, wires, and hoses running straight through passageways,” he said. “As a result, you can’t close the fire doors. Once [the fire] got seeded and got going, there is no way to contain it. It was like a chimney all the way up to the island.”
Yerger added that limited manning may have also hindered the crew’s early ability to fight the fire, saying that had the ship been at sea with a full crew, they would have likely had it under control in less than an hour. At the time of the fire, there were only 160 people on the ship.
While Sobeck has expressed optimism the ship could be saved, Yerger said the ship was likely too far gone.
“You’re not going to fix it,” he told Insider, adding that the ship’s future probably involved being towed out and sunk to a “deep point in the ocean.”
“Build a new America-class and call it a day. This ship is 23 years old. You’d be better off to start fresh,” he said, referring to the newer amphibs replacing the Wasp-class vessels. “Just let it go.”
U.S. Republican and Democratic senators have introduced legislation threatening tough sanctions to discourage Russia from meddling in U.S. elections, Reuters reports.
The Deter Act is intended to sanction Russia’s banking, energy, and defense industries, and sovereign debt for election interference.
The legislation was introduced on April 3, 2019, by Senators Chris Van Hollen (Democrat-Maryland) and Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida).
The two legislators offered a similar bipartisan measure in 2018, which was never brought up for a vote by the Senate’s Republican leaders, who have close ties to President Donald Trump.
Such an approach is thought to have better prospects this year, because control of the House of Representatives is in the hands of Democrats.
Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
Reuters reports that the measure would require the U.S. Director of National Intelligence to determine, within 30 days of any federal election, if Russia or other foreign actors had engaged in election interference.
If such interference is detected, the act would require that mandatory sanctions be imposed within 10 days on Russian banks and energy companies among others.
The act would provide for sanctions to be imposed on two or more of the following Russian banks: Sberbank, VTB Bank, Gazprombank, Vnesheconombank, and Rosselkhozbank.
It also would ban all transactions subject to U.S. jurisdiction in Russian sovereign debt, Russian government bonds, and the debt of any entity owned or controlled by Russia’s government.
Moscow has denied trying to influence U.S. elections. But U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies have established that Moscow sought to interfere with the 2016 poll to boost Trump’s chances of winning the White House.
The Deter Act is aimed at Russia but notes that China, Iran, and North Korea are other major foreign government cyberthreats.
The Marine Corps has announced today that revisions have been made to its physical fitness program, to include the Physical Fitness Test (PFT), Combat Fitness Test (CFT), and the Body Composition Program (BCP). Changes to BCP will take effect immediately, while PFT and CFT changes will be implemented starting Jan. 1, 2017.
The PFT changes are among the most profound since 1972 and the changes to the CFT standards are the first since its inception in 2009.
“Last November we began a comprehensive review of physical fitness and body composition standards,” said Gen. Robert B. Neller, the 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps. “Subsequent efforts focused on developing a physical fitness program that incentivizes behavior toward an end state of a healthy and fit force able to better answer the call in any clime and place.”
Immediate changes to the BCP include an increase in the height and weight standards for females, better equipment for determining height and weight for all Marines and the BCP waiver authority will be passed from the deputy commandant of Manpower and Reserve Affairs to the first general officer in a Marine’s chain of command.
The Marine Corps has taken physical performance into consideration when considering BCP. Marines scoring 285 and higher on both the PFT and CFT will now be exempt from height and weight standards. Marines who score between 250 and 284 will have their maximum body fat percentage increased by one percent.
So for example if a Marine has a maximum body fat percentage [of] 19 percent, with a score between 250 and 284 on both the PFT and CFT, he or she will be allowed to go up to 20 percent body fat.
Changes to the PFT include a pull-up/push-up hybrid for both males and females. This eliminates the option for the flex arm hang for females starting in January.
Although Marines can earn points by doing either of the exercises, the maximum amount of points a Marine can earn doing push-ups is 70 points versus 100 if they chose to do pull-ups. This means the highest PFT score a Marine can earn if they chose to do push-ups is 270. The primary benefits of incorporating the pull-up/push-up option for all Marines is that it incentivizes Marines to improve their pull-ups while ensuring gains of upper body strength across the force.
Marines will also have to complete more crunches for maximum score on their next PFT, with scoring being age and gender normed. There will be a slight adjustment to the three-mile run for Marines in high age brackets, too. The PFT and CFT age brackets will change from four age groups to eight. The new groups are as follows: 17-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40, 41-45, 46-50, and 51+.
Changes to the CFT will consist of adjusted scoring for all three events to correspond with the eight age brackets. The most drastic change will be with the ammo can lifts (ACL) where male Marines age 31-35 will have to complete 120 ACLs for a perfect score vice 97, and female Marines age 26-30 will have to complete 75 ACLs for a perfect score vice 63.
Another change to the CFT is all Marines will perform five push-ups instead of three push-ups during the maneuver under fire portion of the test.
“The new PFT and CFT standards raise the bar on physical fitness for all Marines,” said Maj. Gen. James W. Lukeman, commanding general, Training and Education Command. “Marines today are stronger, faster, and fitter than ever and these changes reflect that. Bigger and stronger often means heavier, so tying performance on the PFT and CFT to changes to the Body Composition Program are improvements that we think the Marines will appreciate. In the end, it’s all about improving the readiness and combat effectiveness of our Corps and the physical fitness of every Marine contributes to that.”
TECOM will monitor the effects of these adjustments for two years and then adjust if required to ensure the standards contribute to the effectiveness of the force.
Additional details, including the new PFT/CFT scoring tables, physical fitness training recommendations and BCP adjustments are available at: https://fitness.usmc.mil. Follow-on MARADMINS and instructional products will further address details of the changes and the associated Marine Corps Orders will be updated accordingly.
Northrop Grumman Corp. and Boeing Co. have received the ICBM replacement contracts for technology maturation and risk reduction, the service said in an announcement on August 21.
The two contracts are not to exceed $359 million each, the service said, though Boeing was awarded a $349 million agreement and Northrop received a $328 million deal.
Lockheed Martin Corp., the world’s largest defense contractor, was also in the running for the competition announced last year. The Air Force opted to down-select from three companies to two for the next phase of the program.
After the 36-month risk reduction phase, a single company will be chosen for the engineering and manufacturing development in 2020.
“We are moving forward with modernization of the ground-based leg of the nuclear triad,” said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said. “Our missiles were built in the 1970s. Things just wear out, and it becomes more expensive to maintain them than to replace them. We need to cost-effectively modernize,” she said in the release.
“As others have stated, the only thing more expensive than deterrence is fighting a war. The Minuteman III is 45 years old. It is time to upgrade,” added Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.
The Air Force is responsible for two out of the three legs of the nuclear triad. It expects to deploy GBSD in the late 2020s.
Northrop and Boeing were selected because the defense companies are determined “to provide the best overall value to the warfighter and taxpayers based on the source selection’s evaluation factors,” which are their technical approach, technical risk, and cost/price, Air Force officials said.
Boeing will perform majority of the TMRR’s program work in its Huntsville, Alabama facility, while Northrop will use Redondo Beach, California, as its facility.
For the GBSD acquisition program, the service’s Nuclear Weapons Center will also be “focused on developing and delivering an integrated GBSD weapon system, including launch and command-and-control segments,” the announcement said.
Officials have noted that GBSD is meant to be more modular and technically advanced, and more readily adaptable to challenges posed by hostile adversaries.
The first contract awards come at a time when the Defense Department is conducting the Nuclear Posture Review, designed to determine what role nuclear weapons should play in US security strategy — and how many should be in the arsenal.
Additionally, the GBSD news precedes the Air Force’s anticipated announcement for the Long Range Standoff Weapon, or LRSO — a nuclear-capable cruise missile to be launched from aircraft such as the B-52 Stratofortress.
The LRSO program would replace the AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile, and a contract is expected to be announced this year.
The M3 Carl Gustav is an upgraded variant of the Army’s Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System, or MAAWS – a reusable, recoilless shoulder-fired conventional munition.
It was first ordered by the Army in response to an Operational Needs Statement from Afghanistan seeking to procure a direct fire, man-portable, anti-personnel and light structure weapon able, among other things, to respond to insurgent rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, fire.
The latest version, or M3E1, is not only lighter, but shorter than the existing M3 but also ergonomically designed with a longer handle and better grips. These features, as well as its ability to use multiple types of rounds for firing, has led the Army to approve a requirement for 1,111 M3E1 units, service statements said.
Responding to soldier feedback, Army and Saab engineers designed a titanium updated M3E1 that is more than six pounds lighter than the bulkier M3 version. The M3E1 is also 2.5 inches shorter and has an improved carrying handle, extra shoulder padding and an improved sighting system that can be adjusted for better comfort without sacrificing performance.
The M3E1 is part of the Product Manager Crew Served Weapons portfolio, which is processing a contract to procure 1,111 M3E1s and an Urgent Material Release to field them as soon as possible, service statements said.
The new variant is “seven pounds lighter than the M3 – it can be carried safely while loaded – it has advanced fire control – and it has an adjustable shoulder rest and front grip,” Wes Walters, Executive Vice President of Business Development for Land Domain with Saab North America, told Scout Warrior.
The M3E1 is also compatible with intelligent sighting systems for firing programmable rounds.
The weapon includes an airburst capability with its High Explosive, or HE, round.
Army weapons developers say the airburst round is the one that is utilized most often because of its effective range. It uses a mechanical time fuse which is set prior to loading the weapon system.
Airburst rounds can be pre-programmed to explode in the air at a precise location, thereby maximizing the weapon’s effect against enemy targets hiding, for example, behind a rock, tree or building.
The weapon has been used by U.S. Army Rangers, Navy SEALs and Special Forces since the late-80s. In 1988, U.S. Special Forces identified a need for a shoulder-fired, recoilless rifle to replace the M67, and Saab Dynamics developed the M3, which was a likely candidate to address the need.
Earlier versions of the anti-armor, anti-personnel, shoulder-fired multi-role weapon is 42-inches long weighs 21 pounds and can fire up to four rounds per minute.
MAAWS can utilize thermal sights to provide Soldiers with the ability to shoot at night and reach the proper range.
The MAAWS is able to fire anti-tank, flechette, illumination, enhanced armor, smoke and High Explosive Dual Purpose rounds, Army developers explained.
“The High Explosive Dual Purpose round gives you two different capabilities. In impact mode, the round goes off immediately as soon as it hits the target. In delay mode, the round penetrates the target and then goes off,” a service official explained.
For all of you who still have the Internet, here are the 13 funniest military memes we could find. For those of you who have lost the Internet to Hurricane Matthew, get out there and get it back. You signed for that Internet.
1. He might not be able to find where he’s supposed to put it, but he will still definitely set it off (via Devil Dog Nation).
2. You must reach a perfect spiritual center before you are ready to eviscerate the enemy and leave their entrails hanging from trees (via Military Memes).
3. Travel all over the planet to find new and exciting decks to sweep (via Military Memes).
The US Navy sent an additional Arleigh Burke-class destroyer into the Black Sea on Feb. 17, 2018 to “conduct maritime security operations” in the region.
The USS Carney joined the USS Ross to patrol a body of water that has become increasingly tense since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014. Crimea is the home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and is where Russian jets have had close intercepts with US Navy aircraft in recent months.
“Our decision to have two ships simultaneously operate in the Black Sea is proactive, not reactive,” Vice Adm. Christopher Grady said in a Navy release. “We operate at the tempo and timing of our choosing in this strategically important region.”
This is the first time two US Navy warships have been in the Black Sea since NATO and Ukraine conducted naval defense drills in July 2017. The exercise involved more than 3,000 members.
US military officials told CNN that the purpose of the deployment was to “desensitize Russia to the presence of US military forces there,” and to help “establish rules for how the two countries should safely operate in proximity to each other, as they did in the Cold War.”
Russia responded to the announcement on Feb. 20, 2018, and said they are tracking the destroyers. “If they demonstrate any hostile or provocative actions … they will get a response and will be served accordingly,” Russian Admiral Vladimir Valuev said.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union effectively controlled the entirety of the Black Sea, though Turkey has determined who can enter and exit the body of water since the sixteenth century.
But in the decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, almost all of the Black Sea nations have either joined NATO, or had their relations with Russia deteriorate due to armed conflict.
Russia is very sensitive about the Black Sea and has been militarizing Crimea since its annexation in 2014. “Basically anything new that they have they are putting in Crimea,” a US defense official based in Europe told CNN.
In addition to close intercepts with the US Navy, the sea has seen a number of incidents with other nations. In 2016, Turkish President said that the Black Sea had “nearly become a Russian lake,” and Ukraine claimed in 2017 that guns from a Russian-occupied oil rig had shot at a military plane, which Russia subsequently denied.
Enlisting in the Army with a childhood friend or relative is a generations-old practice meant to bring familiarity and comfort to an experience fraught with stress and uncertainty.
So, does signing up with more than one recruit further ease the difficulties associated with initial military training?
The answer is an emphatic “yes” as it relates to members of a Samoan family with a decidedly large footprint at Fort Lee. There are 41 of them enrolled in various Sustainment Center of Excellence courses here, twisting the old adage “strength in numbers.”
“This is good for us,” said 30-year-old Spc. Joseph Tauiliili, assigned to Papa Company, 244th Quartermaster Battalion, and the oldest among relatives in various stages of advanced individual training. “We come from American Samoa, and we’re basically thousands of miles away from home. Seeing them by my side keeps me motivated every day.”
American Samoa is a U.S. territory and part of the Samoan Islands, an archipelago that also includes the independent nation of Samoa. It is located in the Pacific Ocean roughly 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii and a little over 2,000 miles northeast of New Zealand.
The Samoans in training here — first, second, third, and fourth cousins — hail from Poloa, an area near the capital city of Pago Pago. All are related to the same malietoa or chieftain. Their decision to join in close proximity was partly based on strong familial and cultural ties, said Pvt. Siiva Tuiolemotu, assigned to Whiskey Company, 244th Quartermaster Battalion.
“We wanted to stick together in training,” the 20-year-old said, noting her country’s communal culture.
Most of the Samoans are training in the Unit Supply Specialist Course taught at the Quartermaster School. A few are enrolled in courses for other quartermaster military occupational specialties, and at least one attends the Ordnance School.
American Samoa, which has struggled economically, boasts strong traditions of military service, said Tuiolemotu. In 2014, a local Army recruiting station was the most productive in the world, according to the Samoa News website. Still, kinship is what drives most to take the oath of service.
“The thing we care about is supporting our families,” she said. “If that means (sacrificing) our lives, yes, we have to fight for them.”
It also is legacy. Many of the Soldiers are the latest to uphold family traditions.
“Most of my siblings are in the military, and I’m the youngest, so I wanted to follow in their footsteps,” said 25-year-old Pfc. Vasait Saua, Whiskey Company, 244th Quartermaster Battalion.
Pvt. Talalelei Ames said his parents also spent time in uniform, and his father is a retiree. Enduring long periods of separation while they served, he said his military ties were not strong, but that has changed since he took the oath.
“Wearing the uniform makes me feel I am more connected to them,” said the 19-year-old. “I think it’s pretty awesome. I never had this much fun in my life and never had this much responsibility. Now, I know what my parents went through to protect the country.”
The question of whether the Samoans are a close-knit clan or a loose group of relatives was answered during a recent photo session. The Quartermaster School’s Sgt. Maj. Micheal Lambert, who organized the gathering, said there were smiles, hugs, and kisses reminiscent of a family reunion. To top it all off, they postured as if performing a traditional dance complete with contorted facial expressions
“They are definitely a family,” he said.
At some point during their training, the Samoans must face an inherent component of Army life — family separation. The sheer number of Samoans wearing uniforms, however, along with the richness of Samoan culture is comforting in light of the prospect, said Tuiolemotu.
“I’m the first one who will leave the group,” she said, noting a pending Fort Riley, Kansas, assignment. “I’m not worried because there are a lot of us out there. I’m bound to meet another relative somewhere. That’s for sure.”
DARPA, BAE Systems, and the Air Force Research Lab are working to pioneer new computer simulations, algorithms, and advanced software to provide military decision makers with organized, near real-time information on causes of war and conflict in operational scenarios.
Drawing upon a range of otherwise disconnected sources of raw data, the new software program is designed to use reasoning algorithms and simulations to analyze intelligence reports, academic theories, environmental factors, and details from operational scenarios and other kinds of user input.
“It is about taking information from disparate sources which would be impossible for a person to consume in a short amount of time,” Jonathan Goldstein, Senior Principal Scientist, Autonomy Controls and Estimation, BAE Systems, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The Air Force Research Laboratory recently awarded a $4.2 million deal to BAE Systems to develop CONTEXT; DARPA is sponsoring BAE’s efforts.
The emerging product, called Causal Exploration of Complex Operational Environments (CONTEXT) models different political, territorial, and economic tensions that often cause conflict. These nodes, or variables making up a complex, yet interwoven tapestry of causes, include things like economic tensions, terrorism, tribal or religious conflict and issues about resources or territorial disputes — among other things.
(DoD News photo by EJ Hersom)
“The technology evaluates causal insertions in different forms and innovates them into a model of interwoven causal relationships present in otherwise disconnected sources. We are building a model that can rapidly be used by an expert, so that when a new conflict flares up, decision-makers can understand the underlying issues,” Goldstein said.
While on the surface, organizing and performing some analytics of large pools of data might bring AI to mind, CONTEXT evaluates material input by users and does not necessarily access massive volumes of historical or stored data. Nonetheless, it does appear to perform some measure of automation and AI like functions, in so far as it organizes and integrates different sources for a human decision maker.
“This shortens the decision cycle. People are not good at maintaining a causal model with complexity in their head. The software creates a large graph of causes, evaluates approaches and examines the potential consequences of a given approach,” Goldstein explained.
Automation and AI, which are of course progressing at near lighting speed these days, are often described in terms of easing the “cognitive burden,” meaning they can quickly perform analytics and a range of procedural functions to present to a human operating in a command control capacity.
At the same time, causes of conflict are often a complex byproduct of a range of more subjectively determined variables – impacted by concepts, personalities, individual psychology, historical nuances, and larger sociological phenomena. This naturally raises the question as to how much even the most advanced computer programs could account for these and other somewhat less “tangible” factors.
Leading AI and cybersecurity experts often say that advanced computer algorithms can analyze data and quickly perform procedural functions far more quickly than human cognition – yet there are nonetheless still many things which are known to be unique to human cognition. Humans solve problems, interpret emotions and at times respond to certain variables in a way that the best computer technology cannot.
“War causation is always over determined. Even with advanced statistical regressions on extremely large data sets, it is unlikely that what causes conflict can be determined with accuracy,” Ross Rustici, Senior Director, Intelligence Services, Cybereason – and former DoD Cyber Lead Intrusion Analyst and Technical Lead for DoD, East Asia, told Warrior Maven.
At the same time, despite natural limitations, using software and simulation to analyze data in this fashion is of course by no means useless, Rustici added.
Calling CONTEXT a “step in the right direction,” Rustici said “any effort to update war prosecution and war cessation planning will go a long way towards updating a military that has learned hard lessons in counterterrorism and regime building. Gaining a finer understanding of how populations and defeated military groups will respond to tactics for winning the war and securing the peace is something that is long overdue.”
Rustici further elaborated that human understanding of some elements of causality can without question have a beneficial impact in many respects. However, there are of course substantial limitations, and few would disagree that there are many concepts, feelings, variables and subjective factors informing causality — underscoring the widespread recognition that, despite the pace of technological computer advances, there are still many things which machines cannot do.
“This program is unlikely to have a significant impact beyond understanding how to conduct further modelling in the future,” Rustici said.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The Army and the Air Force are launching a new, collaborative war-gaming operation to assess future combat scenarios and, ultimately, co-author a new inter-service, cross-domain combat doctrine.
The concept of cross-domain fires, something inspiring fast-growing attention at the Pentagon, is grounded in the premise that future war challenges will require air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace synergies to a much greater extent than may have been envisioned years ago.
Operating within this concept, Army TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perking and Air Force Air Combat Command Commanding General are launching a new series of tabletop exercises to replicate and explore future warfare scenarios – the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.
In a Pentagon report, Holmes said the joint wargaming effort will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”
Such a development would mark a substantial step beyond prior military thinking, which at times over the years has been slightly more stove-piped in its approach to military service doctrines.
Interestingly, the new initiative may incorporate and also adjust some of the tenants informing the 1980’s Air-Land Battle Doctrine; this concept, which came to fruition during the Cold War, was focused on integrated air-ground combat coordination to counter a large, mechanized force in major warfare. While AirLand battle was aimed primarily at the Soviet Union decades ago, new Army-Air Force strategy in today’s threat environment will also most certainly address the possibility of major war with an advanced adversary like Russia or China. In fact, the Army’s new Operations 3.0 doctrine already explores this phenomenon, as it seeks to pivot the force from more than a decade of counterinsurgency to preparedness for massive force-on-force warfare.
Jumping more than 40 years into the future beyond AirLand Battle into to today’s threat climate, the notion of cross-domain warfare has an entirely new and more expansive meaning. No longer would the Air Force merely need to support advancing armored vehicles with both air cover and forward strikes, as is articulated in Air-Land Battle, but an Air Force operating in today’s war environment would need to integrate multiple new domains, such as cyber and space.
After all, drones, laser attacks, cyber intrusions, and electronic warfare (EW) tactics were hardly on the map in the 1980s. Forces today would need to harden air-ground communications against cyber and EW attacks, network long-range sensor and targeting technology, and respond to technologically-advanced near-peer attack platforms, such as 5th-generation stealth fighters or weaponized space assets.
These considerations are at the heart of the Army-Air Force initiative. A recent article in the National Defense University Press, authored by Holmes and Perkins, defines the parameters of this emerging Army-Air Force cross-domain initiative.
“The rate and speed of current and future world events will not allow us the time to synchronize federated solutions. In order to present the enemy with multiple dilemmas, we must converge and integrate our solutions and approaches before the battle starts. We must also become sensor-shooter agnostic in all our platforms, and we must develop a common operating picture,” the article in the National Defense University Press states.
While the particulars of any new doctrine have yet to be determined, based in large measure upon what is learned through these upcoming war games, the U.S. military services are already moving forward testing and advancing the broad parameters of cross-domain fires.
At exercises such as Northern Edge, fighter aircraft have been used in close coordination with Army ground weapons and surface ships to identify and attack targets together in a coordinated fashion. One senior Army official, speaking at length to Warrior Maven, explained that many current mobile ground-attack systems, such as artillery, can be used and adapted for attacks on air and sea enemy targets.
To cite an example, the senior official said an Army Self-Propelled Paladin Howitzer could be used in strategically vital areas, such as the South China Sea, to hold enemy aircraft or enemy ships at-risk.
The Army’s Program Executive Office Missiles and Space, as part of this strategic effort, is currently pursuing software upgrades to the ATACMS missile to better enable the weapon to hit targets at sea. These concepts, which seek to envision roles and dynamics not initially envisioned for a ground-to-ground weapon, comprise the conceptual epicenter of cross-domain fires.
The notion of Cross-Domain fires is woven into the recognition that new sensor technologies, faster computer processing and things like artificial intelligence increasingly enable attack platforms to function as sensors – nodes on a larger, joint, integrated combat enterprise.
A uniquely modern element of this hinges upon the rapid evolution of networking technologies connecting domains in real-time to shorten sensor-to-shooter time and respond to the widest possible range of threats in combat.
The Army’s emerging Integrated Battle Command System is engineered for the purpose of networking nodes within a broader combat apparatus, able to detect threats and relay information across domains. For instance, a land-based sentinel radar could cue a Patriot missile battery or air-attack platform.
Operating through modern command and control systems, aerial ISR nodes could identify targets and relay coordinates to surface ships or ground weapons using next-generation datalinks.
The Air Force plans to actualize key aspects of this with, for instance, LINK 16 upgrades to the F-22 that enable it to improv data-sharing with the F-35 and 4th-generation aircraft in real-time in combat.
“The F-22 program is developing enhanced “5th-to-5th” generation and “5th-to-4th” generation aircraft communications via the TACLink 16 program,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.
Grabowski added that this program includes hardware and software modifications to field LINK 16 transmit on the F-22. While not eliminating the need for voice communication, transmitting and receiving via LINK 16 datalinks can expedite data- and video-sharing, target coordination and more secure non-voice connectivity.
Air Force officials tell Warrior Maven that cross-domain operations are currently figuring prominently in the ongoing Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB, Nevada.
“Exercises, such as Red Flag, ensure we and our allies are ready to respond to contingencies by providing realistic, advanced, multi-domain combat training in a contested, degraded and operationally-limited environment employing assets in air, space and cyberspace,” Maj. Christina Sukach, Public Affairs Chief, 99 Air Base Wing, told Warrior Maven.
The Red Flag combat exercises, while not discussed in detail by Air Force officials, did assess the challenge of cross-domain connectivity in a GPS-denied environment. This scenario, wherein satellites are attacked or disabled by enemy weapons, speaks to the importance and challenge of cross-domain fires.
Both the Army and the Air Force are currently exploring a wide range of high-bandwidth frequencies and other communications technologies able generate what the military calls “Positioning, Navigation and Timing,” in the absence of GPS.
These moves are of great relevance to the emerging Army-Air Force cross-domain effort because both services currently rely heavily upon GPS for combat systems. The Army’s Blue Force Tracker and handheld navigation systems, coupled with Air Force JDAMS air-ground coordination are all, at the moment, reliant upon GPS. Any new cross-domain doctrine, it therefore stands to reason, would need extend these efforts to specifically incorporate Army-Air Force combat connectivity in a war without GPS.
GPS has become increasingly important to our lives. Not only do Waze, Uber, and many other applications heavily rely on global positioning system. Our cellular networks rely on GPS clocks, banking systems, financial markets, and power grids all depend on GPS for precise time synchronization. In the finance sector, GPS-derived timing allows for ATM, credit cards transactions to be timestamped. Computer network synchronization, digital TV and radio, as well as IoT (Internet of Things) applications also rely on GPS-clock and geo-location services.
In an operational environment jamming GPS signals represents both a threat and an important capability. In addition to serving an important purpose in navigation on land, sea and in the air, GPS also provides targeting capability for precision weapons along with many other tactical and strategic purposes.
For this reason, the U.S. military frequently trains to deny or degrade GPS signals on a large-scale. In 2017, we went inside Nellis AFB to get a firsthand demonstration of how easy and how quickly the U.S. Air Force can jam GPS signals for training purposes.
For instance, the U.S. Navy’s CSG-4, that “mentors, trains and assesses Atlantic Fleet combat forces to forward deploy in support and defense of national interests”, is currently conducting GPS Interference testing in the East Coast area. As an FAA NOTAM (Notice To Airmen), issued for airspace in eight of the FAA’s Air Route Traffic Control Centers, warns, GPS could be degraded from Caribbean and Florida north to Pennsylvania west to the eastern Louisiana, while the tests are conducted Feb. 6 – 10, 2019, at different hours.
In 2017, we went inside Nellis AFB to get a firsthand demo from member of the 527th Space Aggressor Squadron (527th SAS) who showed us how easy and how quickly the U.S. Air Force can jam GPS signals for training purposes: in only a few seconds members of the 527th SAS used commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment to jam local GPS reception making many public services unavailable.
This is not the first time such GPS-denial operations take place. It has already happened on the West Coast in 2016 and, more recently, on the East Coast, at the end of August 2018:
As happened in all the previous operations, we really don’t know which kind of system is being used to jam GPS. However, it must be an embarked system, considered that the source of the jamming is a location off the coast of Georgia, centered at 313339N0793740W or the CHS (Charleston AFB) VOR 173 degree radial at 83NM (Nautical Miles).
As mentioned, not only the military is so heavily reliant on GPS.
AOPA estimates that more than 2,000 airports — home bases to more than 28,600 aircraft — are located within the area’s lowest airspace contour. The East Coast test is “unacceptably widespread and potentially hazardous,” said Rune Duke, AOPA senior director of airspace, air traffic and aviation security, in an article on AOPA website.
Here’s another interesting excerpt from the same article that provides examples of how the GPS testing has affected general aviation:
A safety panel held in September 2018 ended with the FAA deadlocked on a path forward. In November 2018, AOPA reported on instances of aircraft losing GPS navigation signals during testing—and in several cases, veering off course. Instances have been documented in which air traffic control temporarily lost the tracks of ADS-B Out-equipped aircraft.
In a vivid example of direct hazard to aircraft control in April 2016, an Embraer Phenom 300 business jet entered a Dutch roll and an emergency descent after its yaw damper disengaged; the aircraft’s dual attitude and heading reference systems had reacted differently to the GPS signal outage. This issue was subsequently corrected for this aircraft.
AOPA is aware of hundreds of reports of interference to aircraft during events for which notams were issued, and the FAA has collected many more in the last year. In one example that came to AOPA’s attention, an aircraft lost navigation capability and did not regain it until after landing. During a GPS-interference event in Alaska, an aircraft departed an airport under IFR and lost GPS on the initial climb. Other reports have highlighted aircraft veering off course and heading toward active military airspace. The wide range of reports makes clear that interference affects aircraft differently, and recovery may not occur immediately after the aircraft exits the jammed area.
Pilot concern is mounting. In a January 2019 AOPA survey, more than 64 percent of 1,239 pilots who responded noted concern about the impact of interference on their use of GPS and ADS-B. (In some cases, pilots who reported experiencing signal degradation said ATC had been unaware the jamming was occurring.)
Interestingly, “stop buzzer” is the code word, pilots may radio to the ATC when testing affects GPS navigation or causes flight control issues:
Pilots who encounter hazardous interruption of GPS navigation or who have flight-control issues should be aware that they can say the phrase “Stop buzzer” to air traffic control, which initiates the process of interrupting the testing to restore navigation signal reception, Duke said.
During previous GPS-interference events, pilots declared emergencies, but the jamming continued because ATC did not understand that the emergency was related to the GPS interference. According to the Pilot/Controller Glossary, “stop buzzer” is a term used by ATC to request suspension of “electronic attack activity.” Pilots should only use the phrase when communicating with ATC, or over the emergency frequency 121.5 MHz, if a safety-of-flight issue is encountered during a known GPS interference event. Using this unique phrase when experiencing an unsafe condition related to GPS interference will ensure that ATC and the military react appropriately by stopping the jamming, Duke said.
“Pilots should only say ‘stop buzzer’ when something unsafe is occurring that warrants declaring an emergency. They should make sure ATC knows that the emergency is GPS-related and that halting the GPS interference will resolve the emergency,” he said.
Despite the complaints from the civilian side, dominating the GPS “domain” is crucial to win. Consequently, along with the periodic testing like the one underway in the U.S. southeastern coast, GPS jamming has become a common operation of the most recent Red Flag exercises that include simulated scenarios where warfighters train to operate in an environment where electronic and cyber-attacks may disable GPS capability.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.