Seven Soldiers will be among the other athletes representing the United States Feb. 9-25, in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Returning in bobsled will be 2010 Olympic Gold Medalist Sgt. Justin Olsen from San Antonio, Texas; 2014 Olympic Bronze Medalist Cpt. Chris Fogt from Alpine, Utah; and 2010 and 2014 Olympic team member Sgt. Nick Cunningham from Monterey, California, who are all part of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command’s World Class Athlete Program. Olsen and Cunningham are members of the New York National Guard. They will be joined by Sgt. First Class Nathan Weber, who is not part of WCAP.
Sgt. Emily Sweeney from Suffield, Connecticut, and Sgt. Taylor Morris from South Jordan, Utah, will complete in singles luge, along with Sgt. Matthew Mortensen from Huntington Station, New York, who is competing in the doubles luge event. They are also Soldier-athletes in WCAP who have made the U.S. Olympic Team.
The Soldiers’ participation in the Olympics is a testament to their enduring resilience and the Army’s commitment to teamwork, determination and perseverance, and the nation encourages the world to follow and share their progress in social media using #SoldierOlympians.
Opening Ceremonies for these Winter Olympics are scheduled for Feb. 9, and luge events run Feb. 10-15. Bobsled competitions are scheduled to run Feb. 18-24, all to be broadcast by the National Broadcasting Company through NBC News and NBC Sports.
The WCAP program is composed of national and international caliber Soldiers who have been recognized in their sport, and who maximize and embody high performance agility, mental preparedness and physical strength. These Soldier-Olympians connect Americans with the Army and show that they are more than just war-fighters.
Other Soldiers are in contention to coach these Olympians on Team USA.
With possibility of a huge troop surge to Afghanistan coming from the Trump administration, We Are The Mighty asked several OEF combat vets what they missed most from their time “in the suck.” Here’s what they had to say.
Getting a chance to put all your tough training to use and put rounds down range at the bad guys was freakin’ epic.
It was that fun. (images via Giphy)
7. Getting jacked
When you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere and have 24 different of high-calorie MREs to choose from, there’s no better way to pass the time than hitting a gym made of sand bags, 2x4s, and engineer sticks.
1,2,… 12 (images via Giphy)
8. Movie night
Huddling around a small laptop watching a comedy or “Full Metal Jacket” was considered a night out on the town. And we loved it.
And felt like you’re in a real theater… not really. (images via Giphy)
Ballistic missile defense has become a growing concern. Russia has been modernizing not only its strategic forces, but has also deployed the Iskander tactical ballistic system. China has the DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile. The need clearly exists for new assets to stop these missiles — or at least lessen the virtual attrition they would inflict.
Huntington Ingalls Industries has a solution — but this solution comes from a surprising basis. The company, which builds everything from Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to amphibious assault ships, has proposed using the hull of the San Antonio-class landing platform dock amphibious ship to mount.
The design is still a concept — there’s a lot of options in terms of what radars to use, and how the exact weapons fit would work. The model shows at the SeaAirSpace Expo 2017 featured 96 cells in the Mk 41 Vertical Launch System, or the equivalent of a Burke-class destroyer. That’s a low-end version, though. A handout provided says the system can hold as many as 288 cells. This is 225 percent of the capacity of a Ticonderoga-class cruiser, and 300 percent of an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer’s capacity.
Of course, the Mk41 can hold a number of missiles, including the RIM-66 SM-2, the RIM-174 SM-6, the RIM-161 SM-3 — all of which can knock down ballistic missiles. For local defense, a quad-pack RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile is an option. The Mk 41 also can launch the RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROC and the BGM-109 Tomahawk. In other words, this ballistic missile defense ship can do more than just play defense — it can provide a hell of an offensive punch as well.
The handout also notes other armament options, including a rail gun, two Mk 46 chain guns, advanced radars, launchers for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, and .50-caliber machine guns. Yes, even in a super-modern missile-defense vessel, Ma Deuce still has a place in the armament suite. No matter how you look at it, that is a lot of firepower.
The propulsion options include the diesel powerplants used on the San Antonio, providing a top speed of 22 knots. Using an integrated power system similar to that on the destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) would get a top speed of about 29 knots, according to a Huntinton Ingals representative at the expo.
The ship is still just a concept, but with President Trump proposing a 350-ship Navy, that concept could be a very awesome reality.
But these are not the first Americans to have been held hostage. A 2017 list from USA Today before Warmbier’s release noted some other incidents dating from 2009 to the present. These cases have involved civilians. However, prior to 1996, when Evan Hunziker swam across the Yalu River, there had been some incidents where American troops were held hostage.
The environmental research ship USS Pueblo (AGER 2) was attacked and captured by North Korean Forces. One American was killed in the initial attack, while 82 others were held for 11 months. The vessel is still in North Korean hands.
2. July 14, 1977
A CH-47 Chinook was shot down by North Korean forces, killing three of the crew. The surviving crewman was briefly held by the North Koreans until he was released, along with the bodies of the deceased.
US Navy Adm. Harry Harris, the commander of the US military in the Pacific, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 15, 2018, that the US isn’t planning a one-off, “bloody nose” strike on North Korea, but rather it’s planning to go all out in war or not at all.
Senior administration officials are reportedly exploring the “bloody nose” strategy, which entails a limited strike to humiliate and intimidate North Korea. When asked about this during the Senate hearing, Harris said no such plan existed.
“We have no bloody nose strategy. I don’t know what that is,” Harris said in response to a question from Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, USNI reported.
“I am charged by the national command authority of developing a range of options through the spectrum of violence, and I’m ready to execute whatever the President and the national command authority directs me to do, but a bloody nose strategy is not being contemplated,” Harris continued.
Experts uniformly reacted in horror at the news that President Donald Trump’s administration was reportedly planning a limited strike on North Korea, as they allege it would likely result in an all-out, possibly nuclear retaliation from Pyongyang.
“If we do anything along the kinetic spectrum of conflict, we have to be ready to do the whole thing,” Harris said, pouring cold water on the idea of a limited strike that would only have rhetorical ramifications.
Speculation over Trump’s willingness to strike North Korea peaked after he dismissed Victor Cha, a widely respected Korea expert, as US ambassador to South Korea after almost a year of consideration.
Cha’s dismissal owed to his disagreement Trump’s plan to attack North Korea, multiple outlets reported at the time.
US Army weapon officials just opened a competition for a new 7.62mm Interim Service Combat Rifle to arm infantry units with a weapon potent enough to penetrate enemy body armor.
“The Army has identified a potential gap in the capability of ground forces and infantry to penetrate body armor using existing ammunition. To address this operational need, the Army is looking for an Interim Combat Service Rifle that is capable of defeating emerging threats,” according to an August 4 solicitation posted on FedBizOpps.gov.
The service plans to initially award up to eight contracts, procuring seven types of weapons from each gun-maker for test and evaluation purposes. Once the review is concluded, the service “may award a single follow-on Federal Acquisition Regulation based contract for the production of up to 50,000 weapons,” the solicitation states.
“The Government has a requirement to acquire a commercial 7.62mm ICSR to field with the M80A1 Enhanced Performance Round to engage and defeat protected and unprotected threats,” the solicitation states. “The ultimate objective of the program is to acquire and field a 7.62mm ICSR that will increase soldier lethality.”
The opening of the competition comes just over two months after Army’s Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley revealed to Congress that the M4 Carbine’s M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round cannot penetrate modern enemy body armor plates similar to the US military-issue rifle plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI.
This past spring, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn released a directed requirement for a new 7.62mm rifle designed for combat units, prompting Army weapons officials to write a formal requirement.
The presence of a 7.62mm rifle in Army infantry squads is nothing new. Since 2009, the Army’s squad designated marksman rifle has been the Enhanced Battle Rifle, or EBR, 14 — a modernized M14 equipped with a Sage International adjustable aluminum stock with pistol grip, a Leupold 3.5×10 power scope and Harris bipod legs.
The Army adopted the EBR concept, first used in 2004 by Navy SEALs, in response to the growing need of infantry squads operating in Afghanistan to engage enemy fighters at longer ranges.
The EBR is heavy, just under 15 pounds unloaded, compared with the standard M14’s unloaded weight of 9 pounds.
The Army’s Interim Combat Service Rifle should have either 16-inch or 20-inch barrels, a collapsible buttstock, an extended forward rail, and weigh less than 12 pounds unloaded and without an optic, according to a May 31 Army request for information.
Multiple proposals may be submitted by the same organization; however, each proposal must consist of the weapons, proposal, and System Safety Assessment Report. All proposals are due by 3pm EST Wednesday Sept. 6, 2017, the solicitation states.
In addition to the weapons, gun-makers will also be evaluated on production capability and proposed price, according to the solicitation.
All weapons should include items such as a suppressor, cleaning, specialized tools, and enough magazines to support the basic load of 210 rounds.
The competition will consist of live-fire testing and evaluate the following:
Dispersion (300m – function, 600m – simulation)
Compatible with family of weapon sights – individual and laser
Weapon length (folder or collapsed)/ weight (empty/bare) / velocity (300m and 600m calculated)
Semi-automatic and fully automatic function testing (bursts and full auto)
Noise (at shooter’s ear) / flash suppression
Ambidextrous controls (in darkness or adverse conditions) / rail interface
20-30 round magazine to support a 210 round combat load
“Areas to be evaluated could include, but not be limited to: Controllability and Recoil, Trigger, Ease/Speed of Magazine Changes, Sighting System Interface (e.g., ability to acquire and maintain sight picture), and Usability of Controls (e.g., safety),” the solicitation states.
“Additionally, a small, limited user evaluation may be conducted with qualified soldiers,” it states.
Milley told lawmakers in late May that the Army does not believe that every soldier needs a 7.62mm rifle. These weapons would be reserved for the Army’s most rapid-deployable infantry units.
“We would probably want to field them with a better-grade weapon that can penetrate this body armor,” Milley said.
For the first time, the graduating class of the Air Force Academy will have a contingent of cadets who have committed to serve in the newest branch of the military — U.S. Space Force.
“We’re going to commission  Air Force Academy cadets directly into the Space Force” from the graduating class of about 1,000, Gen. Jay Raymond, who serves as the first chief of space operations, said Thursday.
“They will take the oath of office and they will be commissioned into the Space Force, so we are really excited to get those cadets onto the team,” Raymond said.
Saturday’s graduation ceremony has been drastically scaled back because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Vice President Mike Pence is set to address the graduating class in person at the academy’s Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but no family members, spectators or visitors will be allowed to attend. The ceremony has been shortened to 30 minutes, according to academy officials.
Space Force, which was formally created only four months ago, is facing enormous personnel challenges ahead with decisions to be made during the pandemic.
However, “this is a historic opportunity” and “we get to start from scratch,” Raymond said Thursday in a Facebook town hall with Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, his senior enlisted adviser.
“There is no checklist on how to set up an independent service,” Raymond said, adding he wants to make sure “we don’t have a huge bureaucracy” that would stifle innovation.
Raymond and Towberman said they are sticking with the timetable of a 30-day window, to start May 1, for current Air Force personnel to decide whether they want to switch to Space Force.
“I understand it’s a life-changing decision” and some may need more time, Towberman said. “If you just aren’t sure, I want you to understand we’ve got a service we’ve got to plan for.”
Those from other services can also apply to join the Space Force.
“If you’re interested, we’d love to have you,” Raymond said.
But Towberman cautioned that service members from other branches should check first with their leadership before volunteering.
In the rush to set up the new force, Raymond and Towberman said some of the fundamentals expected by the traditions of service and the culture of the U.S. military have yet to be decided for the Space Force.
Raymond said it’s yet to be decided what a Space Force honor guard would look like, and Towberman said no decisions have been made on what the rank insignia will look like for enlisted personnel, or even what the ranks will be called.
China has made excellent progress developing its second aircraft carrier, and Chinese state-run media says it could start patrolling the South China Sea by 2019.
The South China Morning Post, based on a scan of Chinese state media reports, states that the carrier was “taking shape.”
“It will be used to tackle the complicated situations in the South China Sea,” said Chinese media.
The “complicated situation” the media report referred to stems from Beijing’s claims to about 85% of the South China Sea, which sees $5 trillion in trade annually. China has developed a network of artificially built, militarized islands in the region, and at times has unilaterally declared “no fly” or “no sail” zones.
In 2016, the International Court of Arbitration ruled these claims illegal, and the Trump administration has promised to put a stop to China’s aggressive, unlawful behavior.
But that’s easier said than done, and a designated aircraft carrier in the region could help cement China’s claims.
China’s second carrier, likely to be named the “Shangdong” after a Chinese port city, will resemble the Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, which itself is a refurbished Soviet model.
China’s carriers, like Russia’s sole carrier the Admiral Kuznetzov, feature a ski-slope design. US models, on the other hand, use catapults, or devices that forcefully launch the planes off the ship. Ski-slope style carriers can’t launch the heavy bomb-and-fuel-laden planes that US carriers can, so their efficacy and range are severely limited.
But Taylor Mavin, a UC San Diego graduate student in international affairs, notes for Smoke and Stir that these smaller, Soviet-designed carriers were built with the idea of coastal defense, not seaborne power projection, being the main goal:
“Since a major confrontation between NATO and Warsaw Pact would most likely take place in Europe, during the later Cold War Soviet planners focused on protecting the heavily defended ‘bastions’ shielding their ballistic missile submarines and not seaborne power projection.
China’s navy has undergone rapid modernization in the last few years with particular emphasis on fielding submarines. So while a Chinese carrier couldn’t travel to say, Libya, and project power like a US carrier could, it might just be custom made for the South China Sea.
But don’t expect the world’s most populous nation to stop at two carriers. A recent report from Defense News states that satellite imagery from China shows the nation developing catapults to possibly field on a US-style carrier.
Taken in concert with China’s other efforts to create anti-access/area-denial technology like extremely long-range missiles, the US will have to have its work cut out for it in trying to offer any meaningful counter to China’s expansionism in the Pacific.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking at ways to change how the human body manages time in order to improve wounded soldiers’ chances of survival and recovery.
DARPA has set up the Biostasis program to use molecular biology as a way to evaluate and possibly alter the speed at which living systems operate with the goal of extending the window of time between a damaging event and the collapse of those systems.
Such an extension would expand the “golden hour” — the period of time between injury or infection and the first treatment that is regarded as one of the most important factors in saving a life on the battlefield.
“At the molecular level, life is a set of continuous biochemical reactions, and a defining characteristic of these reactions is that they need a catalyst to occur at all,” Tristan McClure-Begley, the Biostasis program manager, said in a DARPA release.
“Within a cell, these catalysts come in the form of proteins and large molecular machines that transform chemical and kinetic energy into biological processes,” he added.
“Our goal with Biostasis is to control those molecular machines and get them to all slow their roll at about the same rate so that we can slow down the entire system gracefully and avoid adverse consequences when the intervention is reversed or wears off,” McClure-Begley said.
The Defense Department policy that ensures wounded troops are moved off the battlefield for care within the first hour after injury has been credited with the military’s nearly 98% survival rate, Rear Adm. Colin G. Chinn, Joint Staff surgeon, said in mid-February 2018.
But the Pentagon’s shifting focus to near-peer adversaries — ones with considerable firepower and air capabilities — has raised questions about whether the golden hour can endure in future conflicts.
The Army is looking at additional training for medics to allow them to provide care beyond the initial triage stage, bridging the gap between a combat medic’s basic knowledge and that of a professional stationed at a battlefield aid station.
DARPA’s initiative, still nascent, is looking for biochemical approaches that control how cells use energy at the level of proteins, using examples from nature of organisms that can survive in extreme conditions and drastically reducing or shutting down their metabolic processes.
“If we can figure out the best ways to bolster other biological systems and make them less likely to enter a runaway downward spiral after being damaged, then we will have made a significant addition to the biology toolbox,” McClure-Begley said.
Right now, the Biostasis program is focused on developing and testing proof-of-concept technologies. Similar Biostasis technologies could yield other medical benefits by reducing reaction times and extending the shelf life of blood and other biological products.
The US military is looking at other ways to boost the body’s ability to respond to and recovery from injury.
Early 2018, doctors and researchers at the Military Health System Research Symposium discussed regenerative medicine and its uses — in particular, the possibility of regenerating limbs, muscles, and nerve tissue.
“We’re not quite there yet,” said Army Lt. Col. David Saunders, extremity repair product manager for the US Army Medical Materiel Development Activity. “What we’re trying to do is develop a toolkit for our trauma and reconstructive surgeons out of various regenerative medicine products as they emerge to improve long-term outcomes in function and form of injured extremities.”
Saunders added that there has been progress in using synthetic grafts to spark the regrowth of muscle, nerve, vascular, and connective tissues.
The research discussed at the symposium included efforts to use fillers to help damaged bones recover and the examination of the African spiny mouse, which has the ability to shed skin to escape predators and recover, scar-free, relatively quickly.
“Extremity wounds are increasingly survivable due to the implementation of body armor and damage-control surgeries,” Saunders said. “[There are] many wonderful things emerging in the field of regenerative medicine to restore form and function to our wounded warfighters.”
The technologies in question are far from practical application. But the military, working under wartime imperatives, has made rapid medical advances in the past. In the run-up to World War II, an Army commission secured FDA approval for a flu vaccine — the first one in the US — in just two years.
A sailor assigned to Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Georgia was selected Dec. 7, 2018, as one of the Navy’s first warrant officer 1s since the rank was discontinued in 1975.
The Navy announced in NAVADMIN 293/18 the selection of Cryptologic Technician (Networks) 1st Class Nicholas T. Drenning and five other petty officers to the newly reestablished rank.
The warrant officer 1 rank was reinstated through the Cyber Warrant Officer In-Service Procurement Selection Board in order to retain cyber-talent and fill leadership roles. The Navy began accepting applications in June 2018 from CTNs in the paygrades of E-5 and E-6 who met Naval Enlisted Classification and time-in-service requirements.
Drenning, who was a second class petty officer when he submitted his package but promoted to petty officer first class in December 2018, applied for the warrant officer program to remain on a technical career path and shape the Navy’s cyber forces. He said he believes a strong technical background and dedication to training others directly contributed to his selection.
“After taking the enlisted advancement exam multiple times, I wanted to prove it to myself and the warrant officer selection board that they chose the right candidate” Drenning said. “Now I am excited to set a new precedent and build on the heritage and traditions that make the Navy unique.”
The Navy’s new W-1s will be worn on their covers instead of the traditional officer badge.
Drenning currently has nine years of enlisted service and is slated to be appointed to warrant officer 1 in September 2019. He said he looks forward to working with the other warrant officer selectees many of whom he has worked with previously in Maryland and Georgia.
“My personal focus will be fulfilling the intent of the program, which stresses technical expertise,” Drenning said. “Part of shaping our community is going to be building effective relationships with junior-enlisted, the chief’s mess and fellow officers.”
Upon appointment, Drenning said he looks forward to filling many different cyber work roles and mission sets as he helps to shape policy and build an effective cyber force.
NIOC Georgia conducts SIGINT, cyber and information operations for Fleet, Joint and National Commanders. The command supports operational requirements and deployment of Naval forces as directed by combatant and service component commanders.
Since its establishment, FCC/C10F has grown into an operational force composed of more than 14,000 Active and Reserve Sailors and civilians organized into 28 active commands, 40 Cyber Mission Force units, and 26 reserve commands around the globe. FCC serves as the Navy component command to U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Cyber Command, and the Navy’s Service Cryptologic Component commander under the National Security Agency/Central Security Service. C10F, the operational arm of FCC, executes its mission through a task force structure similar to other warfare commanders. In this role, C10F provides support of Navy and joint missions in cyber/networks, cryptologic/signals intelligence and space.
This American Life’s wildly popular Serial podcast came to fame in 2014 with the story of Adnan Syed, a young man from Maryland who was convicted in 2000 for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and high school classmate Hae Min Lee. Syed’s case was clouded with a number of possible discrepancies and suspicions not mentioned in his trial. The case was wild enough to merit retelling via the first season of the podcast, which earned the convicted Syed another hearing based on the new evidence.
The much-anticipated second season of Serial features the story of accused deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl is a U.S. Army soldier who spent nearly five years held in captivity by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani Network after walking away from his outpost in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province. His captors allege he was captured after getting drunk while off-base, while some of his fellow soldiers say he simply walked away from his post. Others say he was captured from a latrine. Bergdahl has, until now, mostly remained silent.
The episode opens with a vivid description of Bergdahl’s rescue and tells the story of his capture and rescue, laying out exactly what happened and why through the lens of host Sarah Koenig and filmmaker Mark Boal, with whom Bergdahl regularly speaks directly.
Boal, a producer and director whose work includes many war films, including “Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Hurt Locker,” and “In The Valley of Elah,” spoke with Bergdahl about everything from his experience in captivity to “motorcycles, God, and how good spicy salsa is.”
Bergdahl reveals in his own words why he left that base in Afghanistan in 2009, which led to a massive search where other U.S. troops died trying to find and rescue him. His story is the same as it always was, he wanted to create a crisis to get a meeting with higher-level commanders to address what he saw were leadership problems in his chain of command, but Bergdahl doesn’t stop there. He wanted to show everyone he could be an outstanding soldier, the outstanding soldier.
“I was trying to prove myself,” he told Boal. “I was trying to prove to the world, to anybody who used to know me, that I was capable of being that person.”
After 20 minutes into his sojourn, Bergdahl realizes he’s made a huge mistake.
“I’m going, ‘Good grief, I’m in over my head,'” he says in the podcast.
Editor’s note: The producers will be interacting with listeners as the show progresses. Ask them questions via Tumblr, twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
With a second carrier already launched and currently being prepared for entry into the People’s Liberation Army Navy, it’s clear that Communist China isn’t resting on its laurels. In fact, China has already started building the first in a new class of aircraft carriers.
According to a report by the South China Morning Post, the first Type 002 carrier, which so far is being called CV-18, was started last year in Shanghai. This is China’s first indigenously-designed class of aircraft carriers. The Type 001 class, which consists of the Liaoning and the larger Shandong, is based on the Russian Navy’s Admiral Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier.
GlobalSecurity.org notes that this carrier is intended to be a counterpart to retired, conventionally-fueled aircraft carriers. The last such carrier in United States Navy service was USS Kittyhawk (CV 63), which was decommissioned in 2009. It will be equipped with catapults to launch aircraft as opposed to the ski-jump used on the Liaoning and Shandong.
CV-18, at 85,000 tons, is reportedly able to hold up to 85 aircraft. This puts it close to the aircraft capacity of the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarriers that currently form the main striking power of the United States Navy. The Chinese Communists plan to build a second Type 002 carrier.
While the oldest Nimitz-class carrier, USS Nimitz (CVN 68), turns 43 years old this year, it operates not only fighters and helicopters, but also airborne, early-warning aircraft and electronic-warfare planes. GlobalSecurity.org notes that China, at the present time, has neither a carrier-borne airborne radar plane nor an electronic warfare plane in service.
The Chinese also are planning to build two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, known as the Type 003. These vessels would potentially be able to match the Gerald R. Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and would displace 110,000 tons. The first Type 003 is slated to enter service by 2028.
By that time, the United States Navy will have three Ford-class carriers in service, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), and USS Enterprise (CVN 80). A fourth carrier, known only as CVN 81, will be in service in 2030. That said, China will be able to give the Navy a tough fight.
Fort Carson’s newest weapon is also its most revolutionary, allowing ground-pounding units to strike targets hundreds of miles behind enemy lines and giving commanders an unprecedented view of enemy movements.
All without risking lives.
Meet the Gray Eagle, a hulking drone with a 56-foot wingspan that packs four Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and can stay aloft for a full 24-hours with its thrumming diesel power plant. Fort Carson has authorization for a dozen of the drones and they will soon be ready for war.
“We are reaching full-operational capability,” said Col. Scott Gallaway, who commands the post’s 4th Combat Aviation Brigade.
The Gray Eagle is similar to drones in use by U.S. intelligence agencies and the Air Force. But how they’re used by the Army will be different.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, armed drones have targeted insurgents and been flown by operators half a world away.
The Army envisions its drones as a way to give combat commanders the capability of striking deep, with drone operators sticking close to the battlefield. While the Air Force relies heavily on officers to fly drones, the Army will lean on its enlisted corps to do most of the flying.
Gallaway said the drones are a tool for a “near-peer competitive environment” – a battle against a well-armed and organized enemy.
The Army has gone to war with drones for nearly two decades. But those drones have been toys compared to the Gray Eagle.
The biggest was the Shadow – with 14-foot wings. It had a range of 68 miles, compared to the Gray Eagle’s more than 1,500 mile range. The small one was the Raven – with a 4-foot wingspan and a range of 6 miles.
Those drones gave commanders a limited view of the battlefield for short periods of time. They’re unarmed, but tactically useful when confronting nearby enemies.
The Gray Eagle, with sophisticated cameras and other intelligence sensors aboard, is strategic, Gallaway said.
“It gives us reconnaissance and security,” he said.
Training with the Gray Eagle at Fort Carson, though, is challenging.
The 135,000-acre post has limited room to use the drones, and it is difficult to simulate how they would be used in war without vast tracts of land. On Fort Carson, the drones look inward to the post’s training area and aren’t used to spy on the neighbors, Gallaway said. The drones, though armed in battle, don’t carry missiles in training.
The small training area denies operators experience that will prepare them for combat.
To overcome that, the post is asking the Federal Aeronautics Administration to create a corridor between Fort Carson and the 235,000-acre Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site east of Trinidad. That would give the drone’s operators experience with long-distance flights while keeping the drones safely separated from other aircraft with a dedicated flight path.
“We want to be able to operate out of Piñon Canyon,” Gallaway said. “We see it as fundamentally important to our readiness.”
The need for that kind of room to fly also speaks to the Gray Eagle’s game-changing battlefield role.
The drone can sneak behind the lines and gather intelligence on enemy movements, sharing the enemy’s precise location with computers mounted on American vehicles across the battlefield.
It can also be used to target enemy commanders, throwing their units into chaos with a precision strike.
“We see them as a combat multiplier,” Gallaway said.
The drones can also be used in new ways the Army is beginning to explore. Pilots aboard the aviation brigade’s AH-64E attack helicopters can view the drone feed in their cockpit and control the Gray Eagle in flight.
“Manned-unmanned teaming brings synergy to the battlefield where each platform, ground or air, uses its combat systems in the most efficient mode to supplement each team member’s capabilities in missions such as overwatch of troops in combat engagements, route reconnaissance, and convoy security,” Lt. Col. Fernando Guadalupe Jr. wrote in the Army’s Aviation Digest.
Translated: Using drones, the Army can overwhelm an enemy like the Martians in War of The Worlds.
Gallaway, an attack helicopter pilot, said he’s been watching the rise of drones in warfare for years.
It will change warfare. And America is in the lead.