New wearable authentication more than a 'token' gesture - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture

The Army Futures Command, or AFC, is developing wearable identity authentication and authorization technologies that will enable soldiers to securely access network-based capabilities while operating on the move in contested, threat-based environments.

Since 2001, the Common Access Card, or CAC, has served as the de facto, government-wide standard for network and system security access control. However, CAC cards are not operationally suited for use in every environment.

Moreover, the Army lacks a standard way for soldiers at every echelon to prove their identity when operating systems, devices, and applications on Army networks.

With this in mind, AFC’s major subordinate command, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC, is researching and developing authentication technologies that will provide soldiers with secure and simple ways to identify, authenticate and be authorized access to Army networks, operating systems, servers, laptops, applications, web services, radios, weapon systems, and handheld devices.


CCDC’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or C5ISR, Center is designing wearable identity tokens for soldiers to use to log on to mission command systems, networks and tactical platforms. The tokens are wireless, lightweight, flexible, and rugged, and they can be inserted in a soldier’s pocket, attached to a sleeve or integrated into a wrist band like a Fitbit.

Conceptually, soldiers wearing these tokens could simply approach a system to login, be recognized by that system, which would then prompt the soldier to enter a PIN or use a biometric as a second factor, and be automatically logged out when they walk out of the system’s range.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture

The CCDC C5ISR Center is developing wearable authentication tokens that will enable soldiers at every echelon to prove their identity when operating systems, devices and applications on the Army tactical network.

(Photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

“The Army is driving towards a simpler and intuitive tactical network, so we’re aligning our Science and Technology resources to explore the challenges associated with this mission space, inform senior decision makers of the lessons learned and deliver capabilities that support Army Modernization and address the soldier’s needs — now and in the future,” said Brian Dempsey, Tactical Network Protection chief for the C5ISR Center’s Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate, or STCD.

The wearable identity tokens combine the security of a public key-based credential — similar to the credential on the CAC — with cutting-edge advances in the commercial wireless payment industry and flexible hybrid electronics, explained Ogedi Okwudishu, project lead for the Tactical Identity and Access Management, or TIDAM, program.

“As part of the Army Futures Command, we’re looking to move at the speed of the information age. We want to be able to research, test, proof the concepts and integrate emerging IT capabilities from industry as they become available. There’s no point re-inventing the wheel,” Okwudishu said.

Under the current paradigm, tactical platforms would need to be retrofitted with specialized equipment in order to read new identity authentication technologies. Such deployments and retrofitting can be very costly. Wearable tokens, however, leverage already existing communication and protocol capabilities, Okwudishu pointed out.

“Soldiers should not have to take out a smartcard, insert it into a card reader and then remember to remove the card from the reader when they are done,” said Okwudishu. “Contactless identity tokens are not only easy to use, they provide a significant cost savings for the Army. You can continue to add authentication capabilities without needing to redesign, or deploy new, tactical hardware to every laptop, server, handheld device or weapon system in the field.”

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture

The tokens are lightweight, flexible and rugged, and they can be inserted in a soldier’s pocket, attached to a sleeve or integrated into a wrist band like a Fitbit.

(Photo by Douglas Scott)

Since beginning the TIDAM program in 2017, the C5ISR Center has worked closely with soldiers and Program Executive Offices, or PEOs, soldier and Command, Control Communications-Tactical, or C3T, to validate, demonstrate and mature the technology.

The center’s STCD is working with Project Manager Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, to finalize a transition agreement with PEO soldier for wearable authenticator infrastructure technologies. In the meantime, the directorate is developing a wearable authenticator software provisioner that will enable the secure placement of credentials on the wearable tokens and the ability to do this “locally” at the brigade level and below.

STCD is also working from a roadmap it jointly developed with PEO soldier to integrate the capability with various systems from PEO soldier and PEO C3T. Currently, the goal for fielding the tokens is in FY 22.

“I think this is a really great idea,” said Sgt. 1st Class David Worthington, senior enlisted advisor for the C5ISR Center. “Nobody has done anything like this yet. If done properly, it will make the authentication process a lot easier and a lot faster. More important, it provides more reciprocity at the tactical level for log-ins, so you can track what people are doing on the network.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan’s turbulent Helmand province, US Marines are rekindling old relationships and identifying weaknesses in the Afghan forces that the Trump administration hopes to address with a new strategy and the targeted infusion of several thousand American forces.


Returning to Afghanistan’s south after five years, Marine Brig. Gen. Roger Turner already knows where he could use some additional US troops. And while he agrees that the fight against the Taliban in Helmand is at a difficult stalemate, he said he is seeing improvements in the local forces as his Marines settle into their roles advising the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps.

Turner’s report on the fight in Helmand will be part of a broader assessment that Gen. Joseph Dunford will collect this week from his senior military commanders in Afghanistan.

Dunford landed in Kabul Monday with a mission to pull together the final elements of a military strategy that will include sending nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops into the country. He will be meeting with Afghan officials as well as US and coalition military leaders and troops.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture
Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Afghan Air Force Brig. Gen. Eng A. Shafi. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

The expected deployment of more Americans will be specifically molded to bolster the Afghan forces in critical areas so they can eventually take greater control over the security of their own nation.

The Taliban have slowly resurged, following the decision to end the combat role of US and international forces at the end of 2014. The NATO coalition switched to a support and advisory role, while the US has also focused on counter-terrorism missions.

Recognizing the continued Taliban threat and the growing Islamic State presence in the county, the Obama administration slowed its plan to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of last year. There are now about 8,400 there.

But commanders have complained that the sharp drawdown hurt their ability to adequately train and advise the Afghans while also increasing the counter-terror fight. As a result, the Trump administration is completing a new military, diplomatic, and economic strategy for the war, and is poised to send the additional US troops, likely bolstered by some added international forces.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Photo: USMC

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be in Brussels later this week and is expected to talk with allies about their ongoing support for the war.

While Turner said he has already seen improvements in the Afghan’s 215th Corps, he said adding more advisers would allow him to pinpoint problems at the lower command levels, including more brigades.

“The level and number of advisers you have really gives you the ability to view the chain on all the functional areas. The more areas you can see — you can have a greater impact on the overall capability of the force,” he told the Associated Press in an interview from Helmand Province. “If we had more capacity in the force we would be able to address more problems, faster.”

He said that although the Afghan forces have improved their ability to fight, they still need help at some of the key underpinnings of a combat force, such as getting spare parts to troops with broken equipment.

The seemingly simple task of efficiently ordering and receiving parts — something American forces do routinely — requires a working supply chain from the warehouse to the unit on the battlefield.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture
Kentucky Guardsmen train Afghans. DoD Photo by Lt.j.g. Bryan Mitchell

And Turner said that’s an issue that could be improved with additional advisers.

Other improvements, he said, include increasing the size of Afghanistan’s special operations forces and building the capacity and capabilities of its nascent air force.

The Afghan ground forces in Helmand, he said, have been able to launch offensive operations against the Taliban, including a recent battle in Marjah.

“I don’t think last year they could have taken the fight to Marjah like they just did,” he said. “They’re in a much better position that they were a year ago.”

But they are facing a resilient Taliban, whose fighters are newly financed, now that the poppy harvest is over.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture
Marines in Helmand province, Afghanistan. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga

“Once they draw their finances, they start operations,” said Turner. “What we’ve seen so far since the end of May, when they made that transition, is a steady grind of activity across a number of places in the province.”

What has helped a lot, Turner said, is his Marines’ ability to renew old relationships with Afghan tribal elders, provincial ministers, and military commanders they worked with six or seven years ago.

Battalion officers they knew then are now commanders, and many government leaders are still in place.

“We obviously have a long commitment here in Helmand. It’s been good for the Marines to come back here,” he said. “This is a really meaningful mission. I think people realize that we don’t want to get into a situation where the kinds of pre-9/11 conditions exist again.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

The US military is shifting its focus toward preparing for great-power conflict, and on the ground in Europe, where heightened tensions with Russia have a number of countries worried about renewed conflict.

That includes new attention to short-range air-defense — a capability needed against an adversary that could deploy ground-attack aircraft, especially helicopters, and contest control of the air during a conflict.


Between late November and mid-December 2018, Battery C of the 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment from the Ohio National Guard maneuvered across southeast Germany to practice shooting down enemy aircraft.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture

US soldiers from Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment conduct an after-action review during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, Dec. 7, 2018.

(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)

The unit worked with 5,500 troops from 16 countries during the first phase of Combined Resolve XI, a biannual US-led exercise aimed at making US forces more lethal and improving the ability of Allied militaries to work together.

At Hohenfels training area, soldiers from Battery C engaged simulated enemy aircraft with their Avenger weapons systems, which are vehicle-mounted short-range air-defense systems that fire Stinger missiles.

The unit outmanuevered opposition forces, according to an Army release, taking out 15 simulated enemy aircraft with the Avengers and Stingers.

Battery C also protected eight assets that their command unit, the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team from the 1st Cavalry Division, deemed “critical.”

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture

An Air Defense Artillery Humvee-mounted Avenger weapons system from Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, December 7, 2018.

(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)

Capt. Christopher Vasquez, the commander of Battery C who acted as brigade air-defense officer for the exercise, linked his unit’s performance to its experience with armor like that used by the 1st ABCT.

“It’s given us some insight into how they fight, and how they operate,” Vasquez said. “The type of unit we are attached to dictates how we establish our air defense plan, so if we don’t understand how tanks maneuver, how they emplace, then we can’t effectively do our job.”

The second phase of the exercise, which will include live-fire drills, will take place from January 13 to January 25, 2019, at nearby Grafenwoehr training area, where Battery C is deployed.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture

A Bradley fighting vehicle provides security for Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, Dec. 7, 2018.

(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)

Reestablishing air defense in Europe

The unit arrived in Europe in 2018 to provide air-defense support to US European Command under the European Deterrence Initiative, which covers Operation Atlantic Resolve.

During Operation Atlantic Resolve, the US Army has rotated units through Europe to reassure allies concerned about a more aggressive Russia, particularly after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine.

Air Defense Artillery units like the 1-174th were for a long time embedded in Army divisions, but the service began deactivating them in the early 2000s, as planners believed the Air Force would be able to maintain air superiority and mitigate threats from enemy aircraft.

But the Army found in 2016 that it had an air-defense-capability gap. Since then it has been trying to correct the shortfall.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture

An FIM-92 Stinger missile fired from an Army Avenger at Eglin Air Force Base, April 20, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

US soldiers in Europe have also been relearning air-defense skills that were deemphasized after the threat of a ground war waned with the end Cold War.

In January 2018, for the first time in 15 years, the US Army in Europe started training with Stingers, which have gained new value as a light antiaircraft weapon as unmanned aerial systems proliferate.

Operation Atlantic Resolve rotations have included National Guard units with Avenger defense systems to provide air-defense support on the continent. (The Army is also overhauling Avengers that were mothballed until a new air-defense system is ready.)

The service also recently reactivated the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment in southern Germany, making it the first permanent air-defense artillery unit in Europe since the end of the Cold War.

The battalion, composed of five Stinger-equipped batteries, returned important short-range air-defense abilities to Europe, said Col. David Shank, head of 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, of which the unit is part.

“Not only is this a great day for United States Army Europe and the growth of lethal capability here,” Shank said at the activation ceremony. “It is a tremendous step forward for the Air Defense Enterprise.”

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

Articles

The iconic Jeep may see frontline combat again

The Jeep was first introduced on Jul. 15, 1941. It became an icon in World War II and evolutions of the design saw combat in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf War.


New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture
Gen. Dight D. Eisenhower rides in a Jeep in Normandy during World War II. Photo: US Army Signal Corps

The U.S. phased the Jeep out of the arsenal starting in 1984 when it adopted the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, also known as the HMMWV or Humvee. But the Jeep may be headed for a comeback.

According to a report in Stars and Stripes, the Army is looking for an inexpensive, lightweight, unarmored, all-terrain vehicle for ferrying troops and supplies. It would bridge a gap between the Army’s upcoming, heavily armored JLTV and the light MRZRs.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture
The JLTV is a heavily armored vehicle replacing the M-ATV and MRAP, while the MRZR is a light vehicle in service with special operations and Airborne units. Photos: US Army

One company, Hendrick Dynamics, thinks that sounds a lot like the original Jeep and they’re submitting modified Jeep Wranglers to the competition. From Stars and Stripes:

Hendrick starts with a diesel-equipped Wrangler Rubicon, converts the electrical system to 24 volts, adds additional safety features and military-spec equipment, upgrades the suspension and brakes for higher payload capacities and modifies the vehicle so it can be transported within an aircraft cargo hold.

While Jeep, now owned by Fiat Chrysler, has been out of the defense contracting game for a long time, Hendrick Dynamics has a bit of experience modifying Wranglers for combat duty. They currently offer three versions of their “Commando” vehicle to government agencies and commercial clients.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture
Photo: Commando USA gallery

The Commando 2, Commando 4, and Commando S are clearly aimed at light units like Airborne and Air Assault formations, the same units that are the most likely beneficiaries of the Army’s vehicle proposal.

Commandos are certified for loading on CH-47s and can be slung under UH-60 helicopters. The website advertises that the vehicles are strong enough to tow 105mm howitzers.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture
The Commando S is basically a rugged pickup that can carry different mission pallets. Photo: Commando USA gallery

All three models run on JP-8, the jet fuel also used in most military vehicles, tanks, and generators. The Commando S model even has a “Mission Pallet System” that allows it to be quickly configured for carrying heavy weapons, combat engineering, route clearance, or other tasks.

If Hendrick Dynamics gets wins the Army contract, vehicles similar to the current Commando and the World War II Jeep could be the preferred ride of future warfighters.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7

Russia is not in talks with the United States about its potential role at an expanded Group of Seven (G7) summit later this year, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on July 4.

“We have not had negotiations of this kind and are not having any,” Ryabkov told TASS.


Ryabkov’s comments countered those of John Sullivan, U.S. ambassador to Russia, who told RBC TV on July 3 that Washington was “engaged with the Russian Foreign Ministry and with the other G7 governments about whether there is an appropriate role for Russia at the G7.”

U.S. President Donald Trump raised the prospect of Russia’s return to the group of leading economic powers in May when he announced plans to postpone the meeting until September because of the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time he said he would expand the list of invitees to include Australia, Russia, South Korea, and India.

Russia was formerly in the group but was expelled in the wake of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Trump said it was “common sense” to invite President Vladimir Putin to rejoin the group, but other G7 countries, including Canada and France, have objected to the idea.

Ryabkov also said an expanded G7 meeting should include China.

“The idea of the so-called expanded G7 summit is flawed, because it is unclear to us how the authors of that initiative plan to consider the Chinese factor. Without China, it is just impossible to discuss certain issues in the modern world,” he said, according to TASS.

Ryabkov also noted that Russia has proposed holding a summit of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

“This is a completely different format. We believe that work in that format, including on the most pressing current issues, is optimal,” Ryabkov said.

Ryabkov said Moscow has continued diplomatic efforts to draw up the agenda of a summit.

“We have submitted appropriate proposals to other partners in the P5 (permanent members of the Security Council), and we are waiting for their reaction,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to do the military spouse career balancing act

Military spouse careers are a unique balancing act. We are always teetering between what is best for ourselves, our military members and our families. The military lifestyle means many things are out of our control. What can spouses control in this uncertain, often stressful, amazing adventure called military life?


Control Over Our Careers

We do not envision ourselves pursuing an education, vocation or degree to land a job and work our way up the ladder, only to have it fall apart once we marry into the military. None of us plan for our careers to take a back seat to that of our beloved member of the armed forces. We have our own career aspirations. We do not aspire to be underemployed or unemployed. Unfortunately, this is often our reality. When do military spouses get to put our careers first and submit our “dream sheet” for life?

Luckily, there are many resources available to enable us to have more control over our careers, despite the challenges presented by the military lifestyle. Organizations and publications exist to tackle the military spouse employment issues identified by recent Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Surveys. Specific resources encourage educational, mentoring, advocacy and entrepreneurial opportunities for spouses. There are work-from-home, flexible, telework and remote work options available if we know how to search for them appropriately. We can take control of our careers by utilizing available resources and researching our options. Included below is a list of a few available career resources specifically for military spouses.

Balancing our careers with our family’s well-being

Like all working parents, we must consider what our career options mean for our families. Our goals and aspirations may not be the best thing for all parties involved. We are always balancing our happiness against what is best for our children. The military lifestyle means deployments, long periods away for one parent, and frequent moves. These types of challenges compound the need for us to focus on others above ourselves. We want to provide stability for our families when the military cannot.

As spouses, we do have control over recognizing and prioritizing the needs of our family and ourselves. We can have honest, open discussions with our military members and families about our career goals, needs, and dreams. Our children learn from watching us as parents. As military spouses, we have a unique opportunity to show our children how to develop a strong work ethic, appreciate career and gender equality, set goals, and pursue dreams.

Our service member’s careers can benefit ours

In a perfect world, the military member’s career and that of the spouse always align. The reality is, the service member’s career always comes first. The active-duty opportunities dictate our location, home choices, our children’s schools, and, ultimately, our career opportunities as military spouses. However, we can control how we advocate for ourselves regarding the service member’s career. Perhaps if we compromise, the next duty station can provide options that benefit both careers. The following location might hold additional educational opportunities for spouses. If childcare is an issue, we can advocate to move closer to our support resources.

We are not that different from our career-oriented civilian spouse counterparts. Any families with two employed parents struggle with similar balancing acts. However, the military lifestyle brings an added layer of complexity. There is a lack of control over one’s own life that comes along with the military. They are called orders for a reason. Military members, spouses, and families do not have a choice.

However, as spouses, we can choose how we deal with the orders. We can make career choices that allow us to have less uncertainty and anxiety in our lives. We can pursue our dreams and passions. We can determine our career destiny separate from that of our military members. We may not have control over what the military hands us, but we do have control over how we handle what comes our way. Perhaps, we can find more life balance and career satisfaction if we focus on what we can control.

Articles

This could be the new replacement for the US Army’s Blackhawk helicopter

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture
Bell’s V-280 Valor | Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.


After several decades of service, the US Army might finally replace their lineup of UH-60 Blackhawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters.

Unveiled at the Farnborough Air Show in England, Bell Helicopter — in conjunction withLockheed Martin — debuted their latest creation, the V-280 Valor.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture
Bell Helicopters

Similar to the V-22 Osprey currently in service by the US Marine Corps and Air Force, the V-280 applies a tiltrotor mechanism to fly similar to normal helicopters and aircraft. However, the similarities seem to end there, as significant upgrades look to eclipse its predecessor’s capabilities.

Bell claims that the new V-280 will now be capable of flying at twice the speed and range of current helicopter platforms. Features of the helicopter include a 500-800 nautical miles range, aerial refueling, a crew of 4 and 14 troops, carrying capacity of 25% more cargo than a Blackhawk, and its signature 280 knots true airspeed (KTAS).

According to Aviation Week, the Valor will also have a forward-firing capability and a technologically advanced glass cockpit — like Lockheed Martin’s F-35.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture
Bell Helicopters

In addition to its performance, the V-280 will be more affordable than the V-22: due to the nature of its straight wing design, the V-280 would not only take half the time to construct compared to the V-22’s swept wing, but also half as cheaper — costing about $20 million, similar to the UH-60.

Other nations, such as Australia, UK, and Canada, have also followed suit in expressing interest in the helicopter. So far, the construction of the helicopter is about 60% completed and is slated to take its inaugural flight on September 2017.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Two Air Force generals rumored for next Chairman of Joint Chiefs

Two U.S. Air Force generals are being considered to become the military’s next top general with the anticipated retirement of Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford in 2019, according to a new Wall Street Journal report.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein and U.S. Strategic Command’s Air Force Gen. John Hyten are among those being considered by the White House to be next chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, Journal reported Aug. 19, 2018.


Goldfein, Hyten and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley are also under consideration to become the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Journal said, citing U.S. officials. The position is currently held by Air Force Gen. Paul Selva.

A White House spokesperson declined to comment to Military.com about the reported moves on Aug. 20, 2018. A Defense Department spokesman declined to confirm the moves, but noted that the military routinely makes senior command changes.

The reported proposal to elevate Hyten comes at a time when the Defense Department is focused heavily on expanding its space and nuclear enterprise. As the STRATCOM chief, Hyten has emphasized the need for nuclear modernization as well as the growing demand for bulked-up defenses in space as adversaries like Russia and China continue to exhibit hostile behavior in the domain.

While Hyten in recent months has not publicly commented on President Donald Trump’s proposed Space Force, the general has made clear that space is becoming a more contested arena.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford

“We have to treat space like a warfighting domain,” Hyten recently told audiences at the 2018 Space Missile Defense Symposium, reiterating previous comments he has made. “It’s about speed, about dealing with the adversary,” he said, as reported by Space News.

Goldfein has also made efforts to make his service more competitive and collaborative. As Air Force Chief of Staff, Goldfein has stressed the importance of partnerships with allies and joint services, as well as the imperative to develop a more streamlined approach to carry out the military’s global operations.

For example, with the Air Force’s ‘Light Attack’ experiment, Goldfein has said the importance of procuring new planes isn’t solely about adding new aircraft, but also about developing ways to work with more coalition members to counter extremism in the Middle East.

“Is this a way to get more coalition partners into a network to counter violence?” he told Military.com in a 2017 interview. “[This] isn’t an incentive for us not to lead,” he said. “It’s the incentive for us to grow … to have more partners in this fight.”

Trump is looking to nominate new leaders across various combatant commands as rotations for current leaders come to an end, Wall Street Journal reported.

Among the reported moves:

  • Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, Jr., director of the Joint Staff, to command U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East. McKenzie, who was often seen briefing alongside Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White, would replace Army Gen. Joseph Votel.
  • Army Lt. Gen. Richard Clarke to lead U.S. Special Operations Command. Clarke is currently the director for Strategic Plans and Policy on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. He would replace Army Gen. Tony Thomas in the job, which oversees all special operations in the U.S. Armed Forces. Thomas is anticipated to retire next year.
  • Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, current U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa commander, to become the commander of U.S. European Command and NATO supreme allied commander-Europe. Wolters would replace Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, who has overseen the steady buildup of forces on the European continent following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Meet the first woman to lead a Marine Corps tank platoon

Second Lt. Lillian Polatchek made history on Wednesday when she became the first female graduate of the Army’s Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course, and the first woman to lead a Marine tank platoon.


Polatchek graduated from the Army-led Basic Armor Officer Leaders Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, at the top of her class of 67 Marines and soldiers.

She will soon report to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where she will serve as a tank officer with the 2nd Tank Battalion.

Also read: The Marine Corps just spent $6 million on a war tool invented in the barracks

Despite being a trailblazer, she downplayed her accomplishment in a video posted by the Marine Corps.

“Ultimately, I am sort of just looking at it as another Marine graduating from this course.”

The 19-week course at Fort Benning is required for service members to become armor officers. Polatchek’s class had only five Marines in it, but they all graduated in the top 20% of their class, including three in the top five, according to a Marine Corps press statement.

“The small group of Marines in the class worked really well together and that reflects in the class rankings,” Polatchek said.  “So it shows the success of all of our training up to this point and then how we worked well together as a group thanks to our instructors here.”

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture
Polatchek presents an instructor with a graduation gift during the Army’s Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course at Fort Benning. U.S. Marine Corps U.S. Marine Corps

“I think she’s an inspiration for other female Marine who’ve been looking at the corps and considering joining a ground combat military occupational specialty,” Capt. Joshua Pena, a spokesman for Marine Training and Education Command, told Business Insider in a phone interview. “She’s an example, and we’re very proud of her.”

She is the third female Marine officer to complete training for a front-line combat position. The military opened all combat jobs to women in April 2016.

Two female Marines finished artillery officer training in May 2016. Both are currently serving with the 11th Marines at Camp Pendelton in California, Pena said. Two more female Marine officer will start the Marine’s Infantry Officer Course this month to try to become the first women to serve as infantry officers.

More than 30 female Marine officers have previously washed out from the course.

Polatchek is a native of New York, and attended Connecticut College before being commissioned in November 2015. She reported to the Marine Corps Detachment at Fort Benning after graduating from The Basic School at Marine Corp Base Quantico, Virginia.

“A tank platoon has 16 Marines, and that small leadership-size really gives you, as a platoon commander, the ability to directly work with the Marines you’re leading,” Polatchek said. “I’m excited to take everything we’ve learned here and to get a chance to go out to the fleet and apply it.”

MIGHTY MONEY

FEMA says counties near military bases eligible for disaster assistance

Widespread devastation from Hurricane Matthew has prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency to designate residents from a total of 55 counties as eligible for individual disaster assistance. States like Florida; South Carolina; Georgia; and North Carolina were hit hard by the storm — both in coastal communities and further inland past Fort Bragg.


New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture
Specialist Jerimyha Pectol, 689th Rapid Port Opening Element, stages humanitarian aid intended for victims of Hurricane Matthew at Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, October 17th.

As the damage is assessed, FEMA has added counties from all four states where individual residents may apply for disaster relief funding.

Hurricane Matthew made its first landfall by slamming into Haiti on Oct. 4, resulting in over 800 casualties in that island nation. Matthew tore over Cuba and the Bahamas, before impacting the southern Atlantic states. By the time Matthew made its way back out to sea, the death toll had reached nearly 1,400.

The United States Southern Command released a statement Oct. 18 that the command had deployed more than 2,000 personnel and 11 helicopters aboard the USS Iwo Jima to deliver over 223 metric tons of aid and supplies to Haiti. SOUTHCOM expects that the military involvement will recede once “more experienced experts arrive” on the ground in Haiti.

President Obama declared a state of emergency in the four states Oct. 7, opening up federal financial aid. Each of the states’ governors declared states of emergency, and the National Guard was activated to several locations.

According to Newsy, Moody’s Analytics reported that the financial damage from Hurricane Matthew could surpass the $70 billion price tag of Superstorm Sandy.

As a direct result of the damage and the expected cost, FEMA has been quick to update its systems to open up aid to individuals in the stricken areas. There are several ways to request disaster relief funding. Individuals may visit the FEMA website, or call FEMA directly at 800-621-3362.

FEMA also recommends that those affected by the storm call their insurance company to make claims, document the damage with photographs, and complete a proof of loss. Insurance companies can help individuals with this process.

Currently, the list of counties that FEMA has approved for individual disaster relief includes:

  • Flagler County, Putnam County, St. Johns County, and Volusia County in Florida
  • Bryan County; Bulloch County; Chatham County; Effingham County; Glynn County; McIntosh County; and Wayne County in Georgia
  • Beaufort County; Bertie County; Bladen County; Columbus County; Craven County; Cumberland County; Dare County; Duplin County; Edgecombe County; Gates County; Greene County; Harnett County, Hoke County; Hyde County; Johnston County; Jones County; Lenoir County; Martin County; Nash County; Pender County; Pitt County; Robeson County; Sampson County; Tyrrell County; Washington County; Wayne County and Wilson County in North Carolina
  • Allendale County; Bamberg County; Barnwell County; Beaufort County; Colleton County; Darlington County; Dillon County; Dorchester County; Florence County; Georgetown County; Hampton County; Jasper County; Lee County; Marion County; Orangeburg County; Sumter County and Williamsburg County in South Carolina
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Navy advances plans for futuristic ‘Ghost Fleet’

The Navy is working hard to advance an emerging “ghost fleet” concept wherein multiple surface, air and undersea drones operate in a synchronized fashion to conduct a wide-range of combat missions without placing sailors and marines at risk.


“We want to have multiple systems teaming and working together, surface, air and undersea,” Capt. Jon Rucker, program manager, Unmanned Maritime Systems, PEO LCS, said at the recent Surface Navy Association.

Rucker explained that the Pentagon and Navy are advancing this drone-fleet concept help to search and destroy mines, swarm and attack enemies, deliver supplies and conduct intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions, among other things.

Also read: F-35s, F-22s will soon have artificial intelligence to control drone wingmen

Swarms of small aerial drones, engineered with advanced computer algorithms, could coordinate with surface and undersea vehicles as part of an integrated mission, he explained.

As communications and networking technologies continue to evolve rapidly, drones will increasingly be able to function in a cross-domain capacity, meaning across air, sea, land and undersea operations.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture
Better learn how to swim, big guy. | US Air Force photo

Aerial swarms, for instance, could detect an enemy surface vessel and relay information to unmanned surface vessels or undersea drones to investigate or even attack. All of this could operate in a combat circumstance while needing little or no human intervention.

Rucker explained that the Navy, and its Office of Naval Research (ONR), has been working closely with the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, in an effort to fast-track this kind of technology into operational service.

The Strategic Capabilities Office is a special DoD-level effort to harness, leverage and integrate near-term emerging technology for faster delivery to combatant commanders at war.

Much of this involves merging new platforms, weapons and technologies with existing systems in a manner that both improves capability while circumventing a lengthy and often bureaucratic formal acquisition process, Dr. William Roper, SCO Director, told a small group of reporters last year.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) has demonstrated technological advances in autonomy with groups of swarming Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV) designed to detect enemy ships, perform surveillance missions or even launch attacks, service officials said.

Algorithms governing autonomous maritime navigation have progressed to the point where USVs can more effectively “perceive” and respond to their surrounding environment while in transit, Robert Brizzolara, program manager, Sea Platforms and Weapons, ONR, recently told reporters.

During a recent “swarm” boat demonstration in the lower Chesapeake Bay, ONR-developed boats achieved a key milestone in the area of autonomous control.

“Unlike purely remote controlled boats, these boats are able to perceive their environment and plan their routes without human intervention. The role of the human is supervisory control,” Brizzolara said.

A human at a control station, using a low bandwidth connection, can perform command and control functions without needing to actually drive the vessels.

The demonstration used four USVs, working in tandem to perform a range of potential maritime combat operations. All four of the boats were able to see and sense a common picture for route planning, hazard avoidance and collision prevention, developers said.

“We are using a first-of-its-kind sophisticated perception engine which senses the presence of other vessels using a combination of sensors, radar, cameras and processing algorithms,” Brizzolara explained.

The ONR demonstration used 7-to-11 meter boats already in the Navy inventory as manned boats, and configured them with an autonomy “kit” enabling a range of unmanned mission possibilities.

The kits, called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or CARACaS, are engineered to provide USVs with an ability to handle dynamic operational situations; this can include the execution of search patterns, harbor defenses, surveillance or even swarm boat attacks. Other possibilities among a wide range of uses include using autonomous USVs for supply and weapons transport, countermine operations, electronic warfare and amphibious operations.

The USVs are programmed with sensors linked to an established database of known threats such as enemy boats; they are also linked to one another with an ability to detect, track and trail “unknown” boats, Brizzolara said.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture
Creative Commons photo

ONR is working closely with the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, in an effort to fast-track this technology into operational service.

The Strategic Capabilities Office is a special DoD-level effort to harness, leverage and integrate near-term emerging technology for faster delivery to combatant commanders at war. Much of this involves merging new platforms, weapons and technologies with existing systems in a manner that both improves capability while circumventing a lengthy and often bureaucratic formal acquisition process, Dr. William Roper, SCO Director, told a small group of reporters.

A key advantage of using remotely-controlled drone ships is that, quite naturally, they can save sailors and marines from being exposed to enemy fire during an attack operation. In fact, Roper maintained that USV autonomy brings the potential of substantially advancing amphibious warfare tactics.

“This can greatly help expeditionary logistics for a ship that is standing off from the shore. Instead of having to use an amphib manned by a lot of people – you have an unmanned supply boat,” Roper explained.

Fast-moving USVs could indeed lower risk and increase efficiency for a large number of missions, to include Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), countermine operations, search and rescue, electronic warfare, supply and weapons transport and amphibious assaults.

Higher tech enemy sensors and longer range surface and land-fired weapons have drastically increased the vulnerability of approaching amphibious assault operations, making them more susceptible to enemy fire; as a result, the Navy and Marines have been evolving amphibious tactics to include more dis-aggregated approaches designed to spread out an approaching force – making it more difficult for enemy weapons to attack an advancing assault.

For example, the Iwo Jima attack in the Pacific during WWII, an historic amphibious assault, involved a group of Marines approaching enemy shores in close proximity to one another; weapons, Marines, equipment and attacking infantry all came ashore in rapid succession.

Modern threats, are changing amphibious tactics to succeed against higher tech more lethal enemy weapons.

“Instead of having to land as a single unit, they can now break out. There is safety in numbers and they can redistribute,” Roper explained.

When it comes to offensive surface operations, unmanned boats could form a swarming of small attack craft designed to overwhelm and destroy enemy ships with gunfire, explosives or even small missiles.

Roper explained that this strategic and tactical trajectory is greatly enhanced by the possible use of USVs. The Navy’s current inventory includes ship-to-shore amphibious craft called Landing Craft Air Cushions, LCACs, and Landing Craft Utility Vehicles, LCUs; these platforms, now being upgraded by newer transport boats able to move faster and carry more payload (such as Abrams tanks), are manned and therefore involve the use of a crew.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture
Textron Systems photo

LCACs require a crew of 13, and LCACs use a crew of 5. New high tech LCAC replacements, called Ship-to-Shore Connectors, are already being developed and delivered to the Navy by Textron.

The Navy and ONR are already immersed in the development of a variety of USVs, including a mine-detecting Unmanned Influence Sweep System, or UISS, for the Littoral Combat Ship. The UISS is carried by a Textron-developed Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle, or CUSV.

The CUSV, in development since before 2009, can travel for more than 20-hours carrying up to 4,000-pounds at speeds of up to 20-knots, Textron information states. Also, it is engineered to withstand waves up to 20-feet.

The UISS is engineered to find and detonate undersea mines in order to save sailors and manned vessels from a potentially deadly explosion.

The Navy’s UiSS will be towed behind the unmanned vehicle and will emit sounds and magnetic signatures that mimic a ship – setting off nearby mines that listen for passing ships, according to a report from the US Naval Institute.

Sub-Hunting Drone Ship

The Navy is also advancing its recently christened Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA, inspired submarine-hunting unmanned ship called Sea Hunter; the ship is built to travel up to 10,000 miles while using sonar and other sensors to locate enemy submarines. A high-frequency sonar will send acoustic “pings” into the ocean before analyzing the return signal to determine the shape, size, speed and characteristics of any undersea enemy activity.

The 135-ton ship is engineered to withstand rough seas up to Sea State 5 – or waves up to 6.5 feet.

The effort began in 2010 as an anti-submarine ship called “ASW Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel,” or ACTUV. The Sea Hunter can be controlled by a human “tele-operator” able to maneuver the ship with a joystick. Also, it is possible the Sea Hunter could be armed with lethal weapons in the future, a scenario which current Pentagon doctrine says much hinge upon a human decision-maker in the role of command and control.

The Sea Hunter can be controlled by a human “tele-operator” able to maneuver the ship with a joystick. However, the progress of the platform’s technology, and the rapid advancements of algorithms enabling greater levels of autonomy, have inspired the Navy to begin thinking about additional missions for a drone that was initially conceived as a sub-hunting vessel.

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US Navy photo

“Right now, the sky is the limit, but, before we even get to that, we need to be able to have a more autonomous system that can steer and reposition itself,” Rucker said.

The ship is built to travel up to 10,000 miles while using sonar and other sensors to locate mines and even the quietest enemy submarines.

The Sea Hunter’s high-frequency sonar can send acoustic “pings” into the ocean before analyzing the return signal to determine the shape, size, speed and characteristics of any undersea enemy activity.

The 135-ton ship is engineered to withstand rough seas up to Sea State 5 – or waves up to 13 feet.

The 132-foot drone uses advanced hydro-acoustics, pattern recognition and algorithms for unmanned navigation to locate and shadow diesel-electric enemy submarines.

The idea is to track them, if necessary, over a period of months so they are compelled to stay away from strategically vital areas.

As technology evolves, the Navy plan is to rapidly migrate the system from something that is tele-operated to something that can increasingly perform a wider range of functions without needing human intervention.

“We are not yet at the point where we don’t have an operator supervising it,” Rucker explained.

Progress with the Sea Hunter will also involve replacing a turret on top of the drone with a range of sensors for ISR, surface-oriented technologies, weapons and electronic warfare systems, Rucker said.

“It will have an ability to work with the surface force, do command and control and go investigate,” Rucker added.

If the Sea Hunter is both more autonomous and armed with lethal weapons in the future, it will be engineered to align with current Pentagon doctrine which says any use of lethal force must hinge upon a human decision-maker in the role of command and control.

The Pentagon’s research arm is also extending testing of its sub-hunting drone able to travel autonomously for up to 90 days using sensors and sonar technology to search for enemy submarines and other airborne and undersea threats such as mines.

Navy Unmanned Surface Vehicle Master Plan

Meanwhile, the Navy is also developing refueling Unmanned Surface Vehicles that are launched and recovered from a host ship. A refueling and data transfer system that is remote from the host ship and proximate to the USV operating area will allow a substantially greater fraction of a Navy USVs’ endurance to be spent on performing the mission rather than on non-mission activities associated with refueling, including transiting to and from the host ship and being deployed and recovered on the host ship.

This effort, asking industry to design, build, test and demonstrate a prototype USV to be called Offboard Refueling and Data Transfer System, or ORADTS. It will be designed to be more rugged and survivable than existing USVs and travel at longer ranges to extend mission possibilities.

“The ORADTS design must improve on previous designs by providing a more robust system that enhances system usability in higher sea states, reliability, and maintainability for implementation in Navy operations,” a Navy Broad Area Announcement states.

This initiative represents a portion of the execution or operational manifestation of a 2007 service roadmap called “The Navy Unmanned Surface Vehicle Master Plan,” which calls for the eventual combat deployment of a broad range of USVs to include ships for countermine missions, surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, Special Operations support and electronic warfare, among other things.

Plans for USVs include a small “X-class” of boats, a 7-meter “Harbor Class,” a “Snorkeler-Class” and an 11-meter “Fleet-Class” boat, the master plan states.

The currently-sought after ORADTS refueling USV is slated to be a larger “Fleet-Class” USV.

“It is approximately 38.5 ft in length, 10.5 ft beam and full load displacement 21,400 lbs. It can carry between 400 and 650 gallons of diesel fuel marine (DFM) and uses fuel at a rate between 25 and 40 gallons/hr.,” Navy documents describe.

The refueling port of the USV is located on the starboard side of the craft, above the waterline, about midship. There will be up to 2 terabytes of data to be offloaded from the USV, per refueling iteration, the documents add.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

In the summer of 2007, in a bizarre incident shown live on Russian television, scientists accompanied by a couple of senior politicians descended 4,300 meters to the floor of the Arctic Ocean in two Mir mini submarines. Divers then planted a Russian flag on the seabed, and Russia officially notified the United Nations that it was claiming the ridge as part of its sovereign territory.

In effect, the Chinese did the same kind of thing when they decided to start building islands in the South China Sea by dredging sand from the bottom of the ocean.

In both cases, the countries were creating new sovereign territory.


One implication of their declaration was that anyone traveling within the 12-mile limit defined by international law was traversing through their sovereign waters, and could only do so subject to their approval.

Indeed, the Chinese take their claim so seriously that it even threatened that it “is not frightened to fight a war with the US in the region” to protect its sovereignty.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture

A Russian flag planted by from a submarine undersea at the North Pole.

So the question is: why do American policymakers care about seemingly insignificant tracts of land so far away from America’s shores?

International law and American concerns

International law is pretty clear. You can’t declare any territory submerged under the sea outside the conventional 12-mile limit as your own, although you may have some privileges in the waters that lie immediately beyond it. You certainly can’t build up some land to above the waterline, thus creating an island, and call it part of your own territory. And in neither case can you legitimately control access by other vessels. Indeed, no international commission has upheld the Russian or Chinese claims. But that hasn’t stopped either the Chinese or the Russians from trying.

Americans, however, are pretty emphatic when it comes to denying such claims have any legitimacy.

In the Russian case, American policymakers were understandably caught off guard and bemused by this strange symbolic act.

But, at the same time, American policymakers have a right to be worried. Climate change could vastly increase sea traffic through the Arctic Ocean. And the future implications of Russian control of these sea-lanes have lots of potential downsides, given recent friction over Ukraine and Syria.

In the Chinese case, Americans were caught off guard and bemused when they shouldn’t have been.

The Chinese have been making claims for a long time about their sovereignty over huge portions of both the East and South China Sea. But in this case, Americans are worried about what China’s control of these waterways might do now to these commercial shipping lanes. Every year an estimated 50% of the world’s total of commercial trade plus oil passes through the area.

Global trade and American national security

The question of why we do care isn’t as obvious as it may seem.

America’s policymakers declare that the maintenance of global trade and commerce is in its national security interests. So America needs to keep these shipping lanes open to what they call “freedom of navigation.”

What that means is that they can send an Aegis class destroyer (so this was a powerful ship, not the equivalent of a coast guards vessel) and sail it past the Subi Reef (think of an island so small it would drive you mad if it was deserted and you had to live on it alone). It’s the equivalent of a drive-by — just to send a message.

Then you put the US secretary of defense on an aircraft carrier, the USS Roosevelt, and do it again — just to ensure that both the Chinese and America’s important regional allies understood the message:. “This isn’t your territory — and our mighty navy is not about to allow you to push us out.”

You might understandably assume that the Chinese, with their huge volume of exports, would also want to maintain open seas. And that the Russians would want to ship oil and gas to keep their economy afloat by water. So there is nothing to worry about.

But that’s where more modest concerns about global trade are replaced by those about deeper, hardcore national security interests. For Americans there is a difference between “our” open seas and “their” open seas.

Freedom of navigation and American doctrine

A central element of American national security doctrine is the notion of “Freedom of Navigation” or FON.

In effect, we (Americans) assert our right to sail where we want, when we need to. Behind that, however, is the deeply embedded concept of “control of the commons..”

Military historian Alfred Thayer Mahan popularized this idea over 130 years ago. He stressed the importance of America’s navy in ensuring the free flow of international trade. The seas were his “commons.”

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture

Alfred Thayer Mahan 1840 – 1914.

Mahan argued that the British Empire was able to retain its commercial and military advantage by ensuring its ships could go anywhere. And that it could deny anyone else from doing so, if needed, in times of war. The overriding lesson is that wars are not won on the land. They are won on the sea by denying your adversary access to resources.

Today, Mahan’s work remains a core element of America’s military doctrine. It is taught to America’s naval officers at their major training academy where he himself once worked and where his work is still regarded as having biblical significance. But it no longer is just applied to commercial trade. It now is applied to the access of its military in all kinds of commons — in the air, on the sea, in space and even in cyberspace.

So American policymakers become frustrated when they believe Chinese hackers spy on the US or they build islands because it demonstrates that the US can’t “control” that commons.

The answering message is clear. As Ash Carter, the US Secretary of Defense, said in a speech about Russia “At sea, in the air, in space and in cyberspace, Russian actors have engaged in challenging activities.” Carter went on to make it clear that the US wouldn’t tolerate Russian efforts to control those domains. Responding to Chinese threats, he also clearly implied in the same speech that China’s continued activities could indeed lead to conflict.

The importance of chokepoints

But the sea remains the priority when it comes to controlling the commons.

And Chinese sovereignty over the South China Sea offers the prospect that a key trading route located in a narrow strip of water between land masses either side, what they call a chokepoint could be closed by the Chinese, in the future, if not today.

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(US Department of Defense)

The Malacca Strait on the Western end of the South China Sea is one chokepoint — the immediate object of the US’ concern. The Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, where much of the world’s oil passes through, is another. And, at least according to the US Congressional Research Service, the Arctic Ocean, where the Russian planted their flag, could become another.

So this leaves the Americans with an abiding dilemma.

They are saddled with a grand military doctrine built on the principle of keeping the globe’s key access points freely accessible to the US. The barely audible counterpart is that it should maintain a capacity to deny that access to any potential adversary in case of war. The doctrine, however, in practice can itself engender conflict — as we saw with the Chinese.

America may have a much bigger military capacity and even newer technologies that allow it to fight conventional wars. But defending the open seaways is expensive and often counterproductive. The Chinese, for example, are the world’s largest importer of fossil fuels and China is far more dependent on foreign oil than the newly fossil fuel independent United States.

So critics ask why the US is defending the Persian Gulf when the Chinese are the prime beneficiaries?

The answer, it appears, has far more to do with military strategy than with global commerce.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUK on Twitter.

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It’s official — the Army is looking for a new, bigger combat rifle

The stars are aligning and it’s looking more and more like the Army is working to outfit many of its soldiers with a battle rifle in a heavier caliber than the current M4.


Late last month, the service released a request to industry asking which companies could supply the service with a commercially-available rifle chambered in the 7.62x51mm NATO round, a move that many saw coming after rumblings emerged that the Army was concerned about enemy rifles targeting U.S. troops at greater ranges than they could shoot back.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture
Spc. Artemio Veneracion (back), an infantryman with Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, informs his team leader, Sgt. Ryan Steiner, that he has acquired his target with his M110 Semi-automatic Sniper System (SASS) during a Squad Training Exercise (STX) at Tapa Training Area in Estonia, May 26, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin)

It now seems that fear has shifted in favor of fielding a rifle that can fire a newly developed round that is capable of penetrating advanced Russian body armor — armor defense planners feel is more available to enemies like ISIS and terrorist organizations.

In late May, the Army released a so-called “Request for Information” to see if industry could provide the service with up to 10,000 of what it’s calling the “Interim Combat Service Rifle.”

Chambered in 7.62×51, the rifle must have a barrel length of 16 or 20 inches, have an accessory rail and have a minimum magazine capacity of 20 rounds, among other specifications.

The rifle must be a Commercial Off The Shelf system readily available for purchase today,” the Army says, signaling that it’s not interested in a multi-year development effort. “Modified or customized systems are not being considered.”

But what’s particularly interesting is that the ICSR must have full auto capability, harkening back to the days of the 30-06 Browning Automatic Rifle or the full-auto M14. Analysts recognize that few manufacturers have full-auto-capable 7.62 rifles in their portfolio, with HK (which makes the HK-417) and perhaps FN (with its Mk-17 SCAR) being some of the only options out there.

New wearable authentication more than a ‘token’ gesture
A Special Forces soldier takes a rest during a patrol in Afghanistan. The Army is considering outfitting its front-line troops with a 7.62 battle rifle like this Mk17 SCAR-H. (Photo from US Army Special Operations Command)

While the Army is already buying the Compact Semi-Auto Sniper System from HK, that’s not manufactured with a full-auto option.

Under Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, the Army is focusing on near-peer threats like China and Russia and starting to develop equipment and strategies to meet a technologically-advanced enemy with better weapons and survival systems. Milley also has openly complained about the service’s hidebound acquisition system that took years and millions of dollars to adopt a new pistol that’s already on the commercial market — and he’s now got a Pentagon leadership that backs him up, analysts say.

“The U.S. military currently finds itself at the nexus of a US small arms renaissance,” Soldier Systems Daily wrote. “Requirements exist. Solutions, although not perfect, exist. And most of all, political will exists to resource the acquisitions.”