A temporary memorial installation is coming to the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, D.C. this Memorial Day weekend, courtesy of USAA and the National Park Service.
The Poppy Memorial is a translucent structure that measures 133 feet long, 8 1/2 feet tall and is filled with more than 645,000 poppy flowers — honoring every man and woman that gave their life in service of our nation since World War I.
The red poppy became synonymous with the fallen troops during the First World War — and has remained a symbol of their sacrifice ever since. This symbolism originated because of the war poem “In Flanders Field” written by the Canadian Physician, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.
“In Flanders fields the poppies grow, between the crosses, row on row…”
“The poppy flower symbolizes those who gave the last full measure in defense of our freedoms,” said Vice Admiral (Ret.) John Bird, USAA Senior Vice President of Military Affairs. “The Poppy Memorial visualizes the magnitude of that sacrifice and reminds us all of the price that was paid. We are grateful to the National Park Service for allowing us to display this inspiring and educational exhibit among the permanent monuments, as a testament to the enduring bravery of our men and women in uniform.”
This isn’t the first time a temporary memorial will be on display in Washington D.C., but it is a particularly meaningful one. As the United States approaches 18 years of combat deployments, the number of Americans who have served during wartime grows — and thus so too does the number of American families directly affected by war. Each Memorial Day holds a personal significance to our countrymen and women.
From May 25 through May 27, the Poppy Memorial will be open to the public daily for viewing from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET. The memorial will be displayed on the southwestern side of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool – with the Lincoln Memorial to the west, the Korean War Memorial to the south, the reflecting pool due north and the World War II Memorial to the east. The more than 645,000 poppies are a combination of VFW “Buddy”® poppies and poppies from the American Legion Family, both programs designed to encourage Americans to wear poppies in remembrance of the fallen.
Additionally, visitors to the installation on the National Mall will find on-site kiosks to dedicate a digital poppy. Those unable to visit the Poppy Memorial in Washington, D.C. can visit www.poppyinmemory.com to dedicate a digital poppy to a fallen loved one or as a gesture of appreciation for those who sacrificed all. The site also allows users to find previously dedicated poppies that memorialize the servicemembers lost since World War I, and to directly share a “Poppy In Memory” on Facebook and Twitter.
Survivors of the Taliban attack on Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel gave harrowing accounts on Jan. 22 of the 13-hour weekend standoff that claimed 18 lives, including 14 foreigners.
The siege ended on Jan. 21 with Afghan Security Forces saying they had killed the last of six Taliban militants who stormed the hotel in suicide vests late the previous night, looking for foreigners and Afghan officials to kill.
More than 150 people were rescued or managed to escape, including 41 foreigners. Eleven of the 14 foreigners killed were pilots and employees of KamAir, a private Afghan airline. A statement by KamAir later said some of its flights were disrupted because of the attack.
Six Ukrainians, two Venezuelan pilots for KamAir, and a citizen of Kazakhstan were among those killed in the attack. German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr confirmed that a German was among those killed, without providing further details.
Americans are among the dead and wounded in the Taliban attack on #Kabul‘s Intercontinental Hotel on Jan. 20, #US State Department officials say on Tuesday. Eight Afghans, seven Ukrainians, a German, a Kazakh and two Venezuelans are among the 22 killed pic.twitter.com/etV9qrdRIo
Mohammad Humayun Shams, the telecommunications director of eastern Laghman province, who was visiting Kabul and staying at the hotel, said he was able to escape by jumping into a tree from a hotel window as the attackers roamed the hallways, killing people.
“It was the worst night of my life,” Shams said, adding that as he ran, he couldn’t tell the attackers apart from the police because they were all wearing the same uniforms.
Two Greek pilots who were in Afghanistan to train local airline pilots said they survived the attack by hiding in their rooms — one inside a hollow he had cut in his mattress and the other in his bathtub.
Vassilis Vassiliou and Michalis Poulikakos were in the hotel restaurant when gunmen burst in through a kitchen service door. They dashed up to their rooms and hid, following emergency instructions they had been given.
“We overturned the mattresses and messed up the rooms, then opened the balcony doors to make it look as if we had escaped that way,” Poulikakos told Greece’s private Skai TV on Jan. 21.
“I hid in the bathtub. Nobody entered my room, I was very lucky and it all ended after nine hours,” he said. “I was on the fourth floor. Vassilis was on the fifth and he was the only survivor on that floor, there were many more survivors on my floor.”
Vassiliou said he spent 13 hours hidden under — and inside — his mattress, and managed to stay undiscovered even as gunmen used his balcony as a firing position.
“They broke down my door and burst in. I had managed to slip under the bed. There were three of them in the room, one went onto the balcony, the other shot at the other bed and lifted it up,” he said.
When the gunmen had used up their ammunition, they set fire to the fifth floor and disappeared for about an hour and a half. Vassiliou went out to the balcony and realized that there was no escape there — he even came under fire from forces besieging the hotel.
“So I went back into the room and used a small pair of scissors to cut an opening for myself inside the mattress and remained there,” he said. That protected him from the heat and the smoke from the fire burning outside his room.
“I don’t know why but I was very calm. It was as if something told me that I would live,” Vassiliou said.
He said he had shut down both his mobile phones to avoid being betrayed by their ringing, which led authorities to believe he had been killed. He remained in the room from about 9 p.m. to noon the next day, when the gunmen finally ran out of ammunition and left.
“I heard English being spoken and came out of my mattress,” he said.
Vassiliou added that security forces took an inexplicably long time to reach his floor.
“Between 6 and 9 (a.m.), on the fifth floor, these four or five people were having fun, joking around,” he said, referring to the attackers. “They would open every door, I heard voices, a couple of shots, and then laughter. They were undisturbed, nobody tried to stop them, and I think that was a big mistake.”
On Jan. 21, Afghan Security Forces remained positioned on all the roads leading to the hotel, barring everyone from the area.
Among Afghans killed in the attack was a telecommunications official from western Farah province, Afghanistan’s newly appointed consul general to the Pakistani city of Karachi and an employee of the High Peace Council, a commission created to facilitate peace talks.
Friedhelm Kraemer, the head of the Marianne and Emil Lux Foundation, a German charitable group, confirmed in an email that the woman killed was the head of an aid project. German regional newspaper Boeblinger Bote named her as 65-year-old Brigitte Weiler.
In an email to AP, Kraemer said she was a former German navy officer and nurse who would travel to Kabul at her own expense to deliver medicine, food and clothes to families in remote mountain villages in northern Afghanistan.
“Her tragic death tears a hole in the humanitarian aid work for people whom nobody else is helping,” said Kraemer, whose organization supported the project.
Along with Shams, five other hotel guests, including a foreigner, managed to jump into the tree. From there, they climbed down to the ground and Shams called the police with his mobile.
They were told to stay put until the police came to take them away, hours later.
“I am still in shock … in fact can’t believe I am alive” he added.
The entry-level course is for Marines who’ve finished boot camp and aren’t assigned to infantry jobs. It lasts about a month and involves basic combat training, including patrol and convoy operations, marksmanship, and the use of grenade launchers and machine guns.
Pena said the female Marines will be fully integrated with the men, and that their inclusion triggered no changes to the course instruction. He said that, eventually, as many as 1,700 women would go through the combat training there each year.
Currently, Marine boot camp on the West Coast is only for male recruits. Women attend boot camp at Parris Island in South Carolina, where they are separated from the men for portions of the training. Congress members have been critical of that policy, and the Corps has been reviewing it.
Until now, half of the Marine Corps’ male recruits would go through their initial training on the West Coast where they had no female colleagues. A key reason for the limits is the shortage of female recruits. Women make up just 8.7 percent of the Corps.
But Marine leaders have been eyeing changes with the belief that giving the men greater exposure to women recruits during training could foster better relations and greater respect over time.
Costco locations across the US are opening an hour early for active duty members of the military, veterans, and their families.
On March 24, 2018, 117 Costco warehouses are holding a “Military Hour,” which some locations are calling “Costco Hero Hour.” Warehouses will open at 8 a.m., an hour before their normal opening times, to allow current and former members of the armed forces to shop before the crowds arrive at the popular retailer.
The boy just left militia life to enroll in the fourth grade and was no threat to the terror group, a spokesman for the Afghan independent human rights commission told the New York Times.
The boy’s uncle is a former Taliban commander who switched sides to support the Afghan government, along with 36 of his followers, one of which was the young boy’s father. His uncle, Mullah Abdul Samad, was appointed commander of the local police militia and soon became the government’s main force fighting the Taliban in the Oruzgan province. The Taliban laid siege to Samad’s district in 2015. Young Wasil Ahmad’s father was killed in that fighting and so Wasil took command of the garrison’s defense.
“He fought like a miracle,” Samad told the New York Times, adding that Wasil had fired rockets from a roof. “He was successfully leading my men on my behalf for 44 days until I recovered.”
China’s military took “immediate action” on May 27, 2018, against “unauthorized” sailing by US warships in South China Sea waters claimed by Beijing.
China’s defense ministry said in a statement that two US warships, the Antiem guided missile cruiser and the USS Higgins destroyer, entered disputed waters around the Paracel Islands before the Chinese navy intervened in what it considers to be a “serious infringement on China’s sovereignty.”
“Chinese military took immediate actions by dispatching naval ships and aircrafts to conduct legal identification and verification of the US warships and warn them off,” Wu Qian, defense ministry spokesman, said.
The spokesman also called the US move “provocative and arbitrary,” which he said “undermined strategic mutual trust between the two militaries.”
China has held de facto control over the Paracel Islands since 1974, however Taiwan and Vietnam also have competing claims to the area. The US warships reportedly came within 12 nautical miles of the islands.
According to Reuters, the US freedom of navigation operation was a targeted measure against China’s growing influence in the region.
The move comes at a sensitive time between the US and China. In May 2018, the Pentagon disinvited China from an international military exercise in an effort to send a message about the country’s activities in the South China Sea.
“China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region,” Department of Defense spokesman, Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, said in a statement.
Aerial combat has been around for a little over 100 years, and during that time there have already been plenty of epic battles in the skies. Here are 7 of the most intense:
1. Battle of the Philippine Sea
The Japanese fleet securing the Marianas Islands in 1944 was in a tough spot. If it gave up any more ground, America would have bases to attack Japan and the Japanese-occupied Philippines. So, when the U.S. Fifth Fleet was spotted on its way to Saipan, the Japanese attacked it.
96 Israeli fighters and a squadron of UAVs moved to destroy Syrian surface-to-air missile sites on Jun. 9, 1982, successfully knocking out 17 of the 19 missile batteries in the first two hours. The Syrians launched their own jets to fight back, 100 of them.
And the Israelis stomped them. The air battle ran for two days and the Israelis scored 29 jet kills the first day and 35 the second without the loss of a single fighter.
At the end of the battle, 40 Royal Air Force planes and many crews were lost, but 56 German craft were downed and Germany was forced to cease daylight bombing raids.
4. Black Tuesday over MiG Alley
On Oct. 23, 1951, nine U.S. bombers with 89 jets escorting them stumbled into a group of 150 MiG-15s over MiG alley in Korea. The furious 20-minute battle resulted in six downed bombers and an escort lost. The Americans were able to down four of the Russian MiGs attacking them.
5. The Ofira Air Battle
In one of the first engagements of the Yom Kippur War, Syrian and Egyptian jets moved to bomb the Israeli aircraft at a base near Ofira. Two Israeli F-4s were in the air and took insult at 28 MiGs thinking they could just bomb Israelis whenever they liked.
In the dawn of jet combat, a group of German Me-262 jet fighters attacked an Allied formation of 1,329 bombers and 700 fighters. The numbers reported for the German jets vary, but most estimates are between 35 and 60.
The small German force used air-to-air rockets and jet engines, both new technologies at the time, to down 13 bombers and six fighters. Two German aircraft were shot down.
7. The air battle over the St. Mihiel Salient in WWI
In one of history’s largest and earliest air battles, nearly 1,500 Allied planes under the command of the First U.S. Army Air Force.
From Sep. 12-16, 1918, 610,000 men fought for the ground at St. Mihiel as the air forces clashed overhead. Despite a limited number of fighters and severe losses on the ground, German gave as good as they got in the air battle. They fought for control of the air for the first two days of the battle and killed 62 enemy aircraft while losing 63 of their own birds. The Germans did lose 30 balloons to the Allied loss of 4 though.
Iran’s Health Ministry reported 12 more deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the total to 66 deaths, while the number of cases in the country has reached 1,501.
A member of a council that advises Iran’s supreme leader is among those who died, state television reported on March 2.
Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi died at a Tehran hospital of the virus, state radio said. He was 71. Mirmohammadi is the first top Iranian official to succumb to the COVID-19 disease that is affecting several members of Iran’s leadership.
The council advises Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It also acts as a mediator between the supreme leader and parliament.
Mirmohammadi’s death comes as other top Iranian officials have contracted the virus. Iran has the highest death toll in the world after China, the epicenter of the outbreak.
Infections Could Be Higher
Among those who are infected are Vice President Masumeh Ebtekar and Iraj Harirchi, the head of an Iranian government task force on the coronavirus who tried to downplay the virus before falling ill.
Across the wider Middle East, there are over 1,150 cases of the new coronavirus, the majority of which are linked back to Iran.
Experts say Iran’s ratio of deaths to infections, around 5.5 percent, is much higher than other countries, suggesting the number of infections in Iran may be much higher than official figures show.
In a move to stem the outbreak, Iran on March 2 held an online-only briefing by its Foreign Ministry.
Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi opened the online news conference by dismissing an offer of help for Iran by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Meanwhile, a team from the World Health Organization (WHO) has arrived in Tehran to support Iran’s response to a coronavirus outbreak, the UN agency said.
The plane carrying the team also contained “medical supplies and protective equipment to support over 15,000 health care workers, as well as laboratory kits enough to test and diagnose nearly 100,000 people,” the WHO said in a statement.
The supplies worth more than 0,000 were loaded onto the United Arab Emirates military transport plane in Dubai.
Earlier, Britain, Germany, and France have offered Iran a “comprehensive package of both material and financial support” to combat the spread of coronavirus.
In a statement, the three European countries committed themselves to providing financial support “close to” 5 million euros (.6 million) through the World Health Organization or other UN agencies.
The group would send by plane medical material to Iran on March 2, including equipment for laboratory tests, protective body suits, and gloves, it said.
The US Army has been looking to swap out the M4/M16 rifle platform carried by US soldiers in one form or another since the 1960s.
The service currently has its eye on the Next Generation Squad Weapon, but its arrival is years away, and doubts about the Interim Combat Service Rifle make it unclear if US troops will get a new weapon in the intervening period.
Despite that uncertainty, the Army is looking at a number of upgrades to the weapons and ammunition currently carried by its soldiers.
A recent Army study examining existing threats analyzed how to build the new rifle, its ammunition, and its fire-control system in tandem to enhance its capabilities, all while fitting it into the service’s overarching modernization strategy.
According to Army Times, the study has produced several important findings — chief among them that fire control, or how the weapon is aimed, would have the largest impact on the new rifle’s development. But the service also wants to avoid needing constant upgrades.
“For the next generation, we wanted to make one end-all solution,” Brig. Gen. Brian Cummings, head of the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier, told Army Times. “With the M4, when you look at it, it’s got all these things hanging on top of it. We keep evolving it by putting things on it.”
Army researchers are evaluating new designs for bullets and casings, as well as new materials for both rounds and propellants. Private firms have researched using polymers in weapons systems for some time, and one firm, Textron Systems, is now working on developing and refining polymer weapons and cartridges to lighten the load carried by US troops.
The company says its 6.5 mm carbine — an intermediate caliber the Army has its eye on — has the lethality of a 7.62 mm weapon and is lighter than many 5.56 mm rifles, the caliber the Army currently uses.
New sighting technology is also under consideration, meant to make it as hard as possible for soldiers to miss what they aim at. Some devices being reviewed would allow soldiers to aim a rifle without bringing it to their face. Other additions in mind are thermal imaging and range finders that evaluate wind, distance, and ballistics.
Personnel at the US Army’s Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center are currently working on four programs focused on optics systems that identify and track targets, provide guidance and compensate for environmental conditions, improve firing speed and hit probability, and evaluate wind conditions.
An official overseeing the rifle’s development likened the initiative to a “mini-Manhattan project,” in reference to the World War II program that developed nuclear weapons. He said advancements in rifle technology over the next few years could outstrip those made over the last 40.
A version of the NGSW could see the field by 2022, with more advancements coming by 2025.
Cummings, the Army PEO chief, told Army Times that the first 2,000 of 195,000 new M17 handguns will be distributed among members of the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell in Kentucky in November.
By the end of the year, the new sidearm will be given to 3rd Cavalry Regiment troops stationed at Fort Hood in Texas and to members of the Security Force Assistance Brigades.
The M17, a Sig Sauer-made 9 mm pistol, was picked as the Army’s new Modular Handgun System in January, and it’s meant to offer improvements in accuracy and ergonomics. It will be compatible with a silencer and will have interchangeable grips and standard or extended-capacity magazines.
The Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps all plan to adopt the M17, though the Marines are looking at a compact version, the M18.
The Army has said it’s looking at a new weapon for snipers in both the short- and near-term as part of its development of the NGSW. And upgrades are also under consideration for the service’s machine guns.
The Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and some special Navy units are testing a new sight for the venerable M2 .50-caliber machine gun and the M240 medium machine gun.
The Machine Gun Reflex Sight, made by Trijicon, will fill a “huge capability gap,” a company program manager said, and switch easily between the M240 and the M2, the latter of which now only has iron sights limited by the strength of the gunner’s vision.
The new sight will make the M2 more deadly and precise by “increasing the probability of first-round effects,” the program manager told Army Times. The sight costs a steep $4,500 a unit, however, with night-capable models running closer to $5,000.
The Navy Surface Warfare Center is also testing a new kind of ammunition for the .50-caliber machine gun that will be able to travel 65 yards underwater.
The company behind it, DSG Technology, says the new rounds, which also come in 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm variants, use special technology to create a bubble and travel through water. That ability is advantageous at sea because it will reduce the likelihood rounds fired at the water will ricochet and hit friendly forces.
The evaluation of new technology and potential upgrades comes as the Army is looking to reorganize how it buys, builds, and tests new weapons. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has said the service needs to centralize the disparate processes involved in development and deployment to regain its competitive advantage against emerging threats.
“Today, our Army is not institutionally organized to deliver modem critical capabilities to Soldiers and combat formations quickly. Our current modernization system is an Industrial Age model,” Milley said in letter sent to general officers earlier this month. “Our recent focus on fighting wars of insurgency and terrorism allowed our adversaries to make improvements on their modernization efforts and erode our advantages enjoyed since World War II.”
On May 16, 2018, The House passed by a vote of 372-70 major veterans legislation to extend and reform the Veterans Choice Program to allow more private care options.
The “VA Mission Act,” would also lift the restrictions on family caregiver benefits, which are now limited to post-9/11 veterans, and extend them to the caregivers of veterans of all eras.
The bill will now go to the Senate, where Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking member of the Committee, have already expressed their support.
President Donald Trump has said he will sign the bill quickly when it reaches his desk.
In a statement, the White House said the bill would “transform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) into a modern, high-performing, and integrated healthcare system that will ensure our veterans receive the best healthcare possible from the VA, whether delivered in the VA’s own facilities or in the community.”
Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), which previously had expressed concerns that a rapid expansion of community care options could lead to the “privatization” of VA health care, had lined up to back the new bill.
Denise Rohan, national commander of the two-million member American Legion, said in a statement that “I applaud the passage of the VA Mission Act.” She said the bill “will streamline and fund the Department of Veterans Affairs’ many community care programs” and also “expand caregiver benefits to pre-9/11 veterans and their families.”
Keith Harman, national commander of the 1.7 million member Veterans of Foreign Wars, said the bill “will help improve services throughout the VA health system while utilizing private sector resources when needed, striking the right balance to make sure we provide veterans with the best care possible.”
A similar bill offered in 2017, by Isakson was left out of the omnibus $1.3 trillion spending package signed by Trump in February 2018, for all government agencies, forcing the House and Senate to begin anew on reforming choice.
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee who was instrumental in gaining bipartisan support for the new legislation, said that “Over the last several months, we’ve taken great, bipartisan steps to reform the department, and this legislation is yet another strong step in the right direction.”
Roe said the provisions in the bill would keep “our promise to give veterans more choice in their health care while building on our strong investment in VA’s internal capacity.”
The bill would authorize $5.2 billion to extend the current Veterans Choice Program, whose funding was set to expire on May 31, 2018, for one year while the VA enacts reforms to expand private care options.
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota, the ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, voted against the bill.
“There is little debate that the VA Mission Act is better than the current Veterans Choice Program,” Walz said, but he questioned whether there would be sufficient funding in the long run to sustain it.
“Voting against this bill is not something I take lightly,” he said. “While I have serious concerns with regard to long term sustainability and implementation, the bill does take steps to consolidate VA’s various care in the community programs while providing much needed stop gap funding for the ailing Veterans Choice Program.”
Former VA Secretary David Shulkin in 2017, said that about one-third of VA medical appointments were being handled in the private sector, but the Trump administration had argued for more private care options for veterans who face long waits for appointments or have to travel long distances to VA facilities.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
The US Army is turning up the power on its plans for a high-energy laser to shoot down everything from rockets and mortars to even “more stressing threats,” the service recently revealed.
The Army plans to field a 50-kilowatt laser on Stryker armored combat vehicles within the next few years to defend troops against enemy unmanned aerial systems, as well as rockets, artillery, and mortars. The Army has previously practiced shooting down drones with 5-kilowatt lasers.
The next step for the Army was to develop and deploy more powerful 100-kilowatt combat lasers on heavy trucks, but the Army has since changed its plans, deciding to instead pursue a 250-300 kilowatt laser, Breaking Defense reports.
Rather than develop the 100-kilowatt High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL-TVD), the Army will instead work on developing the more powerful directed energy weapon to support the Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) aimed at countering cruise missiles.
United States Tomahawk cruise missile.
The Army declined to clarify whether or not “more stressing threats” included cruise missiles, a growing threat facing American warfighters, but experts told Breaking Defense that 300 kilowatts was the threshold for shooting down cruise missiles.
The Strykers armed with 50-kilowatt lasers are expected to be fielded in 2022, and the more powerful HEL-IFPC is likely to be in the hands of US soldiers by 2024.
Directed-energy weapons are cost-effective alternatives to traditional air-and-missile defense capabilities.
“The advantage of the laser is that we have the ability to have an unlimited magazine when it comes to unmanned aerial systems, as well as rockets, artillery, mortars,” Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, the principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said in July 2019.
A Stryker Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser.
(U.S. Army photo)
“Where before we were shooting 0,000 missiles at ,000 [Unmanned Aerial Systems]. This puts us in a position where we’re not spending that kind of money to do that. We’re taking those targets down in a much more rapid fashion and a much cheaper fashion.”
And, the Army isn’t the only service trying to develop combat lasers.
The Navy is planning to equip its Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with the 60-kilowatt High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) system designed to target small attack boats and drones, and the Air Force is working on the Self-Protect High-Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program to develop a weapon to counter surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Army is massively revving up the offensive attack technology on its Stryker vehicles with vehicle-launched attack drones, laser weapons, bomb-deflecting structures, and a more powerful 30mm cannon, service and industry developers said.
“We have now opened up the aperture for more potential applications on the Stryker,” Col. Glen Dean, Stryker Program Manager, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.
Stryker maker General Dynamics Land Systems has been testing an integrated sensor-shooter drone system mounted on the vehicle itself. A small, vertical take off surveillance drone, called the Shrike 2, launches from the turret of the vehicle to sense, find and track enemy targets. Then, using a standard video data link, it can work in tandem with an attack missile to destroy the targets it finds. The technology is intended to expedite the sensor-to-shooter loop and function as its own “hunter-killer” system.
“A missile warhead can be launched before you show up in town. It has a sensor and killer all in one platform. Let’s reach out and kill the enemy before we even show up,” Michael Peck, Enterprise Business Development, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Peck added that the Stryker-launched drone system could make a difference in a wide range of tactical circumstances to include attacking major power mechanized formations and finding terrorist enemies blended into civilian areas.
“It will go out in an urban environment and it will sense and find your shooter or incoming rpg,” Peck added.
Dean also referenced the Army’s evolving Mobile High-Energy Laser weapons system, which has been testing on Strykers in recent years. Firing a 5kw laser, a Stryker vehicle destroyed an enemy drone target in prior testing, raising confidence that combat vehicle-fired laser weapons could become operational in coming years.
The laser weapon system uses its own Ku-band tracking radar to autonomously acquire targets in the event that other sensors on the vehicle are disabled in combat. It also has an electronic warfare jamming system intended to take out the signal of enemy drones.
Lasers can also enable silent defense and attack, something which provides a substantial tactical advantage as it can afford Stryker vehicles the opportunity to conduct combat missions without giving away their position.
A Congressional Research Service report from 2018, called “U.S. Army Weapons-Related Directed Energy Programs,” details some of the key advantages and limitations of fast-evolving laser weapons.
“DE (directed energy) could be used as both a sensor and a weapon, thereby shortening the sensor-to-shooter timeline to seconds. This means that U.S. weapon systems could conduct multiple engagements against a target before an adversary could respond,” the Congressional report states.
Lasers also bring the substantial advantage of staying ahead of the “cost curve,” making them easier to use repeatedly. In many instances, low-cost lasers could destroy targets instead of expensive interceptor missiles. Furthermore, mobile-power technology, targeting algorithms, beam control, and thermal management technologies are all progressing quickly, a scenario which increases prospects for successful laser applications.
At the same time, the Congressional report also points out some basic constraints or challenges associated with laser weapons. Laser weapons can suffer from “beam attenuation, limited range and an ability to be employed against non-line-of-sight targets,” the report says.
Dean said the Army was “pure-fleeting” its inventory of Strykers to an A1 variant, enabling the vehicles to integrate a blast-deflecting double-V hull,450hp engine, 60,000 pound suspension and upgraded digital backbone.
“This provides a baseline for the fleet to allow us to grow for the future. We just completed an operational test. That vehicle has growth margin to include weight carrying capability and electrical power,” Dean said.
Peck said GDLS will be upgrading the existing arsenal of “flat-bottomed” Strykers to the A1 configuration at a pace of at least “one half of a brigade per year.”
General Dynamics Land Systems is also preparing a new, heavy strength 30mm cannon for the Stryker.
Compared to an existing M2 .50-cal machine gun mounted from Strykers, the new 30mm weapon is designed to improve both range and lethality for the vehicle. The new gun can fire at least twice as far as a .50-Cal, GDLS developers told Warrior.
The 30mm cannon can use a proximity fuse and fire high-explosive rounds, armor piercing rounds and air burst rounds. Also, while the .50-Cal is often used as a suppressive fire “area” weapon designed to restrict enemy freedom of movement and allow troops to maneuver, the 30mm gun brings a level of precision fire to the Stryker Infantry Carrier that does not currently exist.
Dismounted infantry units are often among the first-entering “tip-of-the-spear” combat forces which at times travel to areas less-reachable by heavy armored platforms such as an Abrams tank or Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Certain terrain, bridges or enemy force postures can also make it difficult for heavier armored vehicles to maneuver on attack.
In previous interviews with Warrior, GDLS weapons developers explained that the 30mm uses a “link-less” feed system, making less prone to jamming.
The new, more-powerful Orbital ATK XM 81330mm 30mm cannon, which can be fired from within the Stryker vehicle using a Remote Weapons Station, will first deploy with the European-based 2nd Cavalry Unit.
The Army is also fast-tracking newly configured Stryker vehicles armed with drone and aircraft killing Stinger and Hellfire missiles to counter Russia in Europe and provide more support to maneuvering Brigade Combat Teams in combat.
The program, which plans to deploy its first vehicles to Europe by 2020, is part of an Army effort called short-range-air-defense – Initial Maneuver (SHORAD).
Senior leaders say the service plans to build its first Stryker SHORAD prototype by 2019 as an step toward producing 144 initial systems
“We atrophied air defense if you think about it. With more near-peer major combat operations threats on the horizon, the need for SHORAD and high-tier weapons like THAAD and PATRIOT comes back to the forefront. This is a key notion of maneuverable SHORAD — if you are going to maneuver you need an air defense capability able to stay up with a formation,” the senior Army official told Warrior Maven in an interview.
As a result, ground infantry supported by armored vehicles, will need mobile air defenses to address closer-in air threats. This is where the Stryker SHORAD comes in; infantry does not have the same fires or ground mobility as an armored Stryker, and hand held anti-aircraft weapons such as a hand-fired Stinger would not have the same defensive impact as a Hellfire or Stinger armed Stryker. In a large mechanized engagement, advancing infantry needs fortified armored support able to cross bridges and maneuver alongside foot soldiers.
Chinese or Russian helicopters and drones, for instance, are armed with rockets, missiles and small arms fire. A concept with SHORAD would be to engage and hit these kinds of threats prior to or alongside any enemy attack. SHORAD brings an armored, mobile air defense in real-time, in a way that most larger, less-mobile ground missiles can.
The PATRIOT missile, for instance, is better suited to hit incoming mid-range ballistic missiles and other attacking threats. While mobile, a PATRIOT might have less of an ability to support infantry by attacking fast-moving enemy helicopters and drones.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Beyond hardware, however, countries in Asia are also reassessing the balance of power there, contemplating how to engage China and what role the US — long a guarantor of security and trade in the region — will play going forward.
“Everyone out in Asia is, on one hand, scared of China, and, the other hand, they need China for trade,” Mike Fabey, author of the 2017 book Crashback, about tensions between China and the US in the Pacific, told Business Insider. “Also there’s a real sense of, ‘China’s right here. America’s on the other side of the world.'”
Officials in the region felt the Obama administration “was letting China slide with a few things here and there” to secure cooperation, or at least noninterference, from Beijing on other issues, like the Paris climate accord, Fabey said. “But even with that, there was still definitely a feeling, ‘Hey, America’s got our back.'”
The Trump administration has referred to the region as the “Indo-Pacific,” in what is likely meant to be a rhetorical swipe at China, though it also points to the region’s maritime dimensions. But, Fabey said, “with the recent administration, there’s much more of a feeling now in the Western Pacific, even from folks like Australia, who are really wondering exactly how far America would go now if China were to do anything.”
That has translated into greater interest in local partnerships.
“You’re starting to see Australia, Japan, and India, for example, there’s a new emerging trilateral out there, and that they’re counting the US out. The US is involved,” Fabey said, but there’s now more of a feeling of, “‘we’re on our own more, at least we should act like we’re on our own more, and we’ll do it without the US if we have to.'”
‘They’re very good at playing that card’
First proposed in 2007, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, made up of the US, Japan, Australia, and India, gained new life in 2017, when officials from those countries met to discuss a “free and open Indo-Pacific” and seven core themes, including freedom of navigation, maritime security, and a rules-based order in the region.
Some members of the Quad have tread carefully out of concern about China, which protested its restoration. India has also expressed reticence about the partnership — in part over concerns about its own autonomy as well as doubts about the other three countries’ approaches to China.
“China likes to play the card, ‘Look, you’re Asian. We’re Asian. Quite honestly, no Western power is going to protect your Asian rights out here … You can’t depend on the West to do that,'” Fabey told Business Insider. “And they’re very good at playing that card.”
But cooperation between countries in the region continues, with an eye on securing and enhancing trade and security.
Japan has increased efforts to counter China’s Belt and Road initiative, ramping up international partnerships and investments — including in Sri Lanka, where a recent Chinese port project has angered India.
Australia has followed suit, talking to the US, India, and Japan about a joint regional infrastructure program to rival Beijing’s outreach.
Australia, India, and Japan have been pursuing a trilateral partnership since late 2015, aimed at ensuring “open and free” movement in the region and advancing their shared interests.
The Malabar 2017 exercises in summer 2017, in which India, Japan, and the US took part, emphasized antisubmarine warfare — including submarine-on-submarine exercises. “Nowhere else does the American Navy do that,” Fabey noted, saying cooperation between US and Indian navies “is unlike any other in the world.” (While New Delhi blocked Australia’s participation in Malabar 2017, their defense cooperation has progressed.)
India and Japan did three days of antisubmarine exercises in the Indian Ocean in October 2017.
In March 2018, Vietnam’s president visited India, where the leaders of the two countries put out a statement pledging to continue defense cooperation. Two days later, US carrier made a port call in Vietnam — the first such visit in four decades and a sign of growing ties between the US and Hanoi (whose acquisition of submarines has also irked China).
Around the same time, India’s army chief said that New Delhi was working with Australia, Japan, and the US to guarantee “freedom of navigation” in the region. A few days later, India began its Milan 2018 naval exercises, underscoring New Delhi’s growing engagement with the region.
The Milan exercises were first held in 1995 with four countries. This year, 16 countries joined the drills, which, for the first time, included a joint multilateral exercise at sea. The naval portion took place around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, strategically located near the Malacca Straits, which connects the Indian and Pacific oceans.
That was followed in late March 2018 by the fourth meeting between US Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Indian navy chief Adm. Sunil Lanba, where they “discussed ways to improve interoperability to include additional naval exercises and staff talks.”
As with the Quad, India, which uses Russian-made military hardware, has been reluctant about joint operations. Its reticence about information-sharing has reportedly hindered those exercises and broader interoperability.
‘Like their Caribbean’
China has made clear its displeasure with such regional cooperation.
When Japan’s inclusion in the Malabar exercise was permanent in late 2015, Beijing reacted sharply, saying it hoped “the relevant country will not provoke confrontation and heighten tensions in the region.”
The rivalry between China and India in the Indian Ocean appeared inflamed in February 2018, when both looked poised to respond in the Maldives, where the government imposed a state of emergency, jailed opponents, and stifled protests. (The state of emergency was lifted in late March 2018.) India has long wielded influence in the Maldives, but the government there has courted China, buying into what critics fear is Beijing’s “debt-trap diplomacy.”
China has also flexed its muscles in the South and East China Seas. In January 2018, a Chinese sub was detected around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which are controlled by Japan but disputed by Beijing. It the first confirmed identification of a Chinese sub that area and drew a Japanese protest. Chinese ships have entered that area on six days this year, most recently on March 23, 2018.
In recent days, Vietnam, which has sought to mollify Beijing after the US carrier’s visit, assented to Chinese pressure to scrap an offshore oil-drilling project — the second time in a year Hanoi has done so. The cancellation is likely to be read in Beijing as a sign Vietnam’s strategic thinking has not changed, despite US shows of force in the area.
Such a victory means Beijing’s efforts to assert its claims, and to influence its neighbors, are unlikely to end. Even with regional efforts to counter China, the country’s geography, resources, and military put it in a position to wield considerable influence over the region and the trade that passes through it — which makes a continuing US presence all the more important, said Fabey, author of Crashback.
“If the US were to pull back from there … China would take control, and if China wants to do this, they basically would,” he told Business Insider. “The South China Sea could be like their Caribbean. How we control the Caribbean, China says it wants to control the South China Sea.”
“Now as long as everything’s equal — that is to say, that China is benefiting from that being free and open — then I guess there’s no problem,” Fabey said. But that could change, he added, if Beijing decides changing it is in its interests. “China will always do what’s best for China.”