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The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

If you ever watched “The Jetsons,” an animated sitcom (1963-1964) about a family living in fictional Orbit City in the 2060s, you likely remember the iconic depiction of a futuristic utopia complete with flying cars and robotic contraptions to take care of many human needs. Robots, such as sass-talking housekeeper Rosie, could move through that world and perform tasks ranging from the mundane to the highly complex, all with human-like ease.


In the real world, however, robotic technology has not matured so swiftly.

 

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
WIRED FOR DISCOVERY. Earl Shamwell, one of the authors, sets up a multisensor robotics testbed to collect images, LIDAR data and inertial measurements. Researchers aim to improve robotic performance by closing the gap between what a robot expects to happen and what actually happens. (Photo by Jhi Scott, ARL)

What will it take to endow current robots with these futuristic capabilities? One place to look for inspiration is in human behavior and development. From birth, each of us has been performing a variety of tasks over and over and getting better each time. Intuitively, we know that practice, practice, and more practice is the only way to become better at something.

We often say we are developing a “muscle memory” of the task, and this is correct in many ways. Indeed, we are slowly developing a model of how the world operates and how we must move to influence the world. When we are good at a task—that is, when our mental model well captures what actually happens—we say the task has become second nature.

‘WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS A MAN’

Let’s consider for a moment several amazing tasks performed by humans just for recreational purposes. Baseball players catch, throw, and hit a ball that can be moving faster than 100 miles per hour, using an elegant fusion of visual perception, tactile sensing, and motor control. Responding to a small target at this speed requires that the muscles react, at least to some degree, before the conscious mind fully processes visually what has happened.

Related: Army developing robots to remove casualties from combat

The most skilled players of the game typically have the best mental models of how to pitch, hit, and catch. A mental model in this case contains all the prior knowledge and experience a player has about how to move his or her body to play the game, particularly for the position.

The execution of an assumed mental model is called “feed forward control.” A mental model that is incorrect or incomplete, such as one used by an inexperienced player, will reduce accuracy and repeatability and require more time to complete a task.

We can assume that even professional baseball players would need significant time to adjust if they were magically transported to play on the moon, where gravity is much weaker and air resistance is nonexistent. Similarly, another instance of incorrect models can be observed in the clumsy and uncoordinated movements of quickly growing children; their mental models of how to relate to the world must constantly change and adapt because they are changing.

Nevertheless, humans are quite resilient to change and, with practice, they can adapt to perform well in new situations.

A major focus of much current research going on now at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is moving toward creating a robot like Rosie, capable of learning and executing tasks with the best precision and speed possible, given what we know about our own abilities.

NOT QUITE ‘INFINITE IN FACULTY’

In general, we can say that Rosie-like robot performance is possible given sufficient advances in the areas of sensing, modeling self-motion, and modeling interactions with the world.

Robots “perceive” the world around them using myriad integrated sensors. These sensors include laser range scanners and acoustic ranging, which provide the distance from the robot to obstacles; cameras that permit the robot to see the world, similar to our own eyes; inertial measurement sensing that includes rate gyroscopes, which sense the rate of change of the orientation of the robotic device; and accelerometers, which sense acceleration and gravity, giving the robot an “inner ear” of sorts.

All these methods of sensing the world provide different types of information about the robot’s motion or location in the environment.

Sensor information is provided to the algorithms responsible for estimating self-motion and interaction with the world. Robots can be programmed with their own versions of mental models, complete with mechanisms for learning and adaptation that help encode knowledge about themselves and the environment in which they operate. Rather than “mental models,” we call these “world models.”

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
Army researchers brief a Japanese industry delegation on a unique robot with strong, dexterous arms during an Oct. 5, 2016, visit to the U.S. Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. (U.S. Army photo by David McNally)

‘IN FORM AND MOVING HOW EXPRESS AND ADMIRABLE,’ SORT OF

Consider a robot acting while assuming a model of its own motion in the world. If the behavior the robot actually experiences deviates significantly from the behavior the robot expects, the discrepancy will lead to poor performance: a “wobbly” robot that is slow and confused, not unlike a human after too many alcoholic beverages. If the actual motion is closer to the anticipated model, the robot can be very quick and accurate with less burden on the sensing aspect to correct for erroneous modeling.

Of course, the environment itself greatly affects how the robot moves through the world. While gravity can fortunately be assumed constant on Earth, other conditions can change how a robot might interact with the environment.

For instance, a robot traveling through mud would have a much different experience than one moving on asphalt. The best modeling would be designed to change depending on the environment. We know there are many models to be learned and applied, and the real issue is knowing which model to apply for a given situation.

Robotics today are developed in laboratory environments with little exposure to the variability of the world outside the lab, which can cause a robot’s ability to perceive and react to fail in the unstructured outdoors. Limited environmental exposure during model learning and subsequent poor adaptation or performance is said to be the result of “over-fitting,” or using a model created from a small subset of experiences to maneuver according to a much broader set of experiences.

CONCLUSION

At ARL, we are researching specific advances to address these areas of sensing, modeling self-motion, and modeling robotic interaction with the world, with the understanding that doing so will enable great enhancements in the operational speed of autonomous vehicles.

Specifically, we are working on knowing when and under what conditions different methods of sensing work well or may not work well. Given this knowledge, we can balance how these sensors are combined to aid the robot’s motion estimation.

A much faster estimate is available as well through development of techniques to automatically estimate accurate models of the world and of robot self-motion. With the learned and applied models, the robot can act and plan on a much quicker timescale than what might be possible with only direct sensor measurements.

Finally, we know that these models of motion should change depending on which of the many diverse environmental conditions the robot finds itself in. To further enhance robot reliability in a more general sense, we are working on how to best model the world such that a collection of knowledge can be leveraged to help select an appropriate model of robot motion for the current conditions.

If we can master these capabilities, then Rosie can be ready for operation, lacking only her signature attitude.

Also read: The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s

For more information about ARL collaboration opportunities in the science for maneuver, go to http://www.arl.army.mil/opencampus/.

DR. JOSEPH CONROY is an electronics engineer in ARL’s Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch. He holds a doctorate, an M.S. and a B.S., all in aerospace engineering and all from the University of Maryland, College Park.

MR. EARL JARED SHAMWELL is a systems engineer with General Technical Services LLC, providing contract support to ARL’s Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch. He is working on his doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Maryland, College Park, and holds a B.A. in economics and philosophy from Columbia University.

This article will be published in the January – March 2017 issue of Army ALT Magazine.

Subscribe to Army ALT News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ALT) Workforce.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This was the only fighter that had a chance of catching the SR-71

When the SR-71 Blackbird was revealed to the public by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, the Soviets were caught by surprise. The fact was, the SR-71 couldn’t be caught by any air defense, rendered nearly invulnerable due to its blazing speed and high altitude. The Soviets, though, had a plane that could give it a close chase.


That plane was the MiG-25 Foxbat and it was originally designed to catch another deadly airframe, the B-70 Valkyrie bomber. The Valkyrie never entered service, but the Soviets still pushed the MiG-25, especially after the SR-71 was revealed.

After all, it was the only plane that had a prayer of catching a Blackbird — and even then, it was a very, very faint prayer.

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

The Soviet Union produced almost 1,200 MiG-25 Foxbats, as opposed to 32 SR-71 Blackbirds.

(USAF)

While the SR-71 was built in very small numbers, the Soviets built a lot of MiG-25s — almost 1,200 were produced. Some were exported to countries like Syria, Iraq, and Libya, but many remained in Soviet service. The plane had a top speed of 2,156 miles per hour (compared to the Blackbird’s 2,200 miles per hour) and its primary weapon was the AA-6 Acrid.

The AA-6 Acrid was huge, packing a 150-pound, high-explosive warhead. It had a maximum range of about 30 miles and could go at Mach 4.5. The Foxbat was originally intended to be a bomber-killer, but there was a huge air of mystery around this plane. That mystery was compounded by the outstanding performance of the reconnaissance variant prior to the Yom Kippur War. Soviet pilots flying from Egypt were able to evade Israeli F-4s. That alone prompted much concern in the United States.

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

The AA-6 Acrid is the primary weapon of the MiG-25 Foxbat,

(Photo by Jno~commonswiki)

The MiG-25’s emergence prompted the Air Force to start development of what became the F-15 Eagle. The two planes would face off the Middle East over Lebanon and Iraq, and the MiG-25 would emerge in second place.

Some sources claim an Iraqi MiG-25 was responsible for shooting down the F/A-18 Hornet piloted by Scott Speicher on the opening day of Desert Storm, but others claim that a SA-2 Guideline was to blame.

Learn more about this Russian answer to the Blackbird in the video below! Tell us, do you think the Foxbat could catch and kill the Lockheed legend?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSRf8KXMdPY

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. warns of Russian hacking group’s attempts to gain ‘dream access’ to computer systems

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) on May 28 warned government partners and private companies about a Russian hacking operation that it says uses a special intrusion technique to target operating systems often used to manage computer infrastructure.

“This is a vulnerability that is being actively exploited, that’s why we’re bringing this notification out,” said Doug Cress, chief of the cybersecurity collaboration center and directorate at NSA, in an advisory. “We really want…the broader cybersecurity community to take this seriously.”


The notice is part of a series of public reports by the U.S, agency to share actionable cyber defense information.

The NSA said the hacking activity was tied to “Russian military cyber actors, publicly known as Sandworm Team” and are part of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate’s (GRU) Main Center for Special Technologies.

The NSA said the hackers have used the special intrusion technique to add privileged users, disable network security settings, and execute code that enables further network exploitation – “pretty much any attacker’s dream access – as long as that network is using an unpatched version of Exim [mail transfer agent].”

Exim mail transfer agent is software widely used on Unix-based operating systems such as Linux but is far less known than commercial alternatives such as Microsoft Exchange. The vulnerability was patched last year, but some users have not updated their systems.

The NSA did not say who the Russian military hackers have targeted, what business sectors had been most affected, or how many organizations were compromised. But senior U.S. intelligence officials have warned in recent months that Kremlin agents are engaged in activities that could threaten the integrity of the November presidential election.

The Sandworm group is the same one that interfered in the 2016 presidential election, stealing and exposing Democratic National Committee emails and breaking into voter registration databases.

It also has been blamed for disruptive cyberattacks against Ukrainian electric production facilities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called out the same GRU unit in February for conducting a cyberattack against the country of Georgia.

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

Articles

15 things that capture Super Bowl Sunday, Navy-style

Here are 15 things sailors know all too well about shipboard life around Super Bowl Sunday:


1. For the week or so leading up to the game you challenge your buddies to “Madden” every day after work

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
EA Sports, YouTube

2. But you can only choose two teams: the ones going to the big game

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

3. You play in your work center …

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
Sailors play video games in a supply office after flight operations on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). (U.S. Navy photo by Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Joni Bills)

4. … the galley …

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
Sailors compete in a video game tournament aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Torrian Neeman)

5. … and even the hangar bay

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
Nimitz Sailors participate in a video game tournament during Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) events in the hangar bay of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark Sashegyi)

6. You create obnoxious over-the-top touchdown celebrations just to get under your buddy’s skin

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

7. And then you find out your duty day is on Super Bowl Sunday

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
Giphy

8. So, you ask a buddy to swap your watch

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
The Interview, Columbia Pictures

9. He’s no dummy; it’s not every day you get pizza, wings, and other ship rarities

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
Sailors watch Super Bowl XLVII in the hangar bay aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jacob G. Kaucher)

10. Nothing left but to improvise, so you visit crowded work stations to catch some highlights

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
Sailors watch Super Bowl XLVII in a work space aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kristopher S. Haley)

11. Maybe you’ll have better luck with the Marines

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
U.S. Navy Photo

Nope!

12. You do whatever you can to get closer to the game

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
Sailors watch Super Bowl XLVII in the hangar bay aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Giovanni Squadrito)

13. Super Bowl fever is in the air

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
Sailors watch Super Bowl XLVII in the hangar bay aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jacob G. Kaucher)

14. It’s around this time that it hits you that being part of the a color guard might be a good deal — after all, they get to go to the Super Bowl

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
Members of the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard perform during opening ceremonies for the Super Bowl XLIX at the University of Phoenix Stadium, Feb. 1, 2015. Entertainer Idina Menzel sang the national anthem. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller)

15. As it turns out, you can get selected

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
(Jan. 20, 2013) Culinary Specialist 1st Class Michael Farmer and Aviation Structural Mechanic Airman Presley Whitworth were selected to attend the Super Bowl and will depart from the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in the middle of the ship’s deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lex T. Wenberg)

Articles

5 differences between the Navy and Coast Guard

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
(Photo: USCG)


When people consider joining the military, many times they get confused about the differences between branches, especially when those branches have missions that, at a glance, seem similar. In the case of the Navy and the Coast Guard, they both have boats and airplanes and operate around the water. So how are they different?

Well, here are five major ways:

1. Size

The Navy has a $148 billion budget for Fiscal Year 15. The Navy has around 325,000 active service members and 107,000 reserve service members.

The Coast Guard has a $9.8 billion budget for fiscal year 2015. The Coast Guard has 43,000 active service members and 8,000 reserve service members.  In terms of size, the U.S. Coast Guard by itself is the world’s 12th largest naval force.

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

 (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Apprentice Patrick Gearhiser)

2. Assets

The U.S. Navy has 272 deployable combat ships and more than 3,700 aircraft in active service (as of March 2015).

The Coast Guard operates nearly 200 cutters, defined as any vessel more than 65 feet long, and about 1,400 boats, defined as any vessel less than 65 feet long, which generally work near shore and on inland waterways. The service also has approximately 204 fixed and rotary wing aircraft that fly from 24 Coast Guard Air Stations throughout the contiguous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

3. Mission

The Navy is a warfighting force governed by Title 10 of the U.S. Code and is part of the Department of Defense. The mission of the U.S. Navy is to maintain, train, and equip combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.

The Coast Guard is a maritime law enforcement and search and rescue entity governed by Title 14 of U.S. Code and is part of the department of homeland security. (Prior to 2004 it was part of the Department of Transportation.) However, under 14 U.S.C. § 3 as amended by section 211 of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006, upon the declaration of war and when Congress so directs in the declaration, or when the President directs, the Coast Guard operates under the Department of Defense as a service in the Department of the Navy.

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

4. Career

The Navy is organized into eight different warfare communities: Surface, Amphibious, Undersea, Air, Special Operations (SEALS), Expeditionary Warfare (EOD, Construction, Riverine), Cyber Warfare/Information Dominance, and Space.  These communities offer a number of career options for those interested in driving and maintaining ships, airplanes, or submarines or fighting the nation’s bad guys in direct ways.  The Navy also needs doctors and lawyers and supply types as well as a host of other support jobs that are both rewarding in uniform and sought after on the civilian side.

The Coast Guard’s 11 mission areas — ports, waterways, and coastal security; drug interdiction; aids to navigation; search and rescue; living marine resources; marine safety; defense readiness; migrant interdiction; marine environmental protection; ice operations; and other law enforcement — also give myriad career options to those interested in ships (albeit smaller ones) and airplanes.  The main difference is the USCG’s overall mission is not to wage war but to enforce maritime law.  That’s not to say that Coast Guardsmen aren’t ever involved in trigger-pulling – quite the contrary.  In fact, those involved in mission areas like drug interdiction and other law enforcement operations are arguably more likely to use their weapons than the average fleet sailor.

Coast Guard aviation candidates go through the U.S. Navy’s flight school curriculum.  (There have even been two USCG astronauts.)

Despite the fact the Coast Guard falls under DHS, members are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and receive the same pay and allowances as members of the same pay grades in the other four armed services.

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

5. Duty stations

The U.S. Navy has bases worldwide and assignments are based primarily on warfare specialty.  For instance, if you’re an aviator you’ll be based at an air station in places like San Diego or Virginia Beach as well as deployed aboard an aircraft carrier that can cruise anywhere around the world the situation demands.

Coast Guard has air stations for helicopter and other aircraft, boat stations for launching small boats, and sectors and districts to coordinate the activities of all those assets. Coast Guard stations are located at intervals along the coast of the continental US-based on the response time for search and rescue missions. Those same units also perform coastal security missions.

Articles

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93

Retired Navy Rear Adm. (Lower Half) Richard Lyon, the first SEAL in the Navy Reserve to reach flag rank, passed away Feb. 3. He was 93.


According to a report by the San Diego Union-Tribune, Lyon, a veteran of the World War II-era Underwater Demolition Teams — the forerunners to the SEALs — served 41 years in the Navy Reserve and also saw action during the Korean War.

Lyon is believed to have been among the first troops to land on the Japanese mainland as Tokyo surrendered.

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

In 1951, Lyon was recalled to active duty for the Korean War and worked on destroying enemy mines and later would help destroy enemy tunnels and railways – part of the evolution of the UDTs into the SEALs.

“He was one of the most impressive men I’ve ever met,” Doug Allred, a former officer in Underwater Demolition Team 11, told the Union-Tribune. “It was 1961 and he was a reservist. This old man shows up at our unit and asked if he could go out with us.

“By golly, we were swimming and diving and doing all these hard things and he was destroying all of us young guys.”

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
Retired Rear Adm. Dick Lyon, the first Bullfrog, left, passes the Bullfrog trophy to Capt. Pete Wikul, the 13th Bullfrog, during the passing of the Bullfrog ceremony. The title Bullfrog recognizes the UDT/SEAL operator with the greatest amount of cumulative service. Wikul retired after 39 years and 4 months of Navy service. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua T. Rodriguez)

After the Korean War, Lyon returned to the reserves, and built a very successful civilian carer, being promoted to Rear Adm. (Lower Half) in 1975. In 1978, he was recalled to active duty to serve as deputy chief of the Navy Reserve.

In 1983, he retired from the Navy Reserve, ending a 41-year career. He went on to serve two terms as mayor of Oceanside, California.

The cause of death was reported as renal failure. The family has asked that donations be made to the Navy SEAL Foundation.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The President gets closer to his enormous military parade

Republicans are attempting to ensure that President Donald Trump will get the massive military parade through the streets of Washington that he has long desired, according to a summary of the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act.

The annual defense bill, slated for release on May 7, 2018, will include language that will provide for a parade “to honor and celebrate 100 years of patriotic sacrifice in a way that expresses appreciation and admiration for our men and women in uniform, including a parade in the nation’s capital and a national celebration for that purpose,” according to a summary released by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry.


Republicans are billing the parade as a grand homage to America’s veterans and servicemembers, but also one that would double as a show of force to adversarial countries like Russia.

Thornberry “thinks at this point in history — 100 years after the Armistice when the world order that has been built largely by the service and sacrifice of veterans of past wars is under pressure from countries like Russia and China — this is an appropriate moment to acknowledge their service,” a Republican aide told Business Insider.

But what kind of equipment will be paraded through the capital is unclear. Under the framework outlined in the bill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will have authority to prohibit the use of “operational units or equipment” if he deems it at all a burden that would threaten military readiness.

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis
(DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“It talks a little about stuff that’s traditionally used in parades,” the aide said. “But as for anything more, [Thornberry] leaves it to the secretary’s discretion to make sure that readiness restoration remains the department’s priority.”

The GOP aide added that the Department of Defense regularly uses funds for ceremonies and similar events, making them “well-versed in these functions.”

“What the chairman is comfortable with is veterans. Of course you’re gonna see a 21-gun salute, you’re gonna see firing of cannons, and things like that — that’s OK — that’s traditional ceremonial function,” the aide said. “What we don’t wanna see are tanks rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Trump has been fascinated by the idea of a large US military parade ever since his trip to Paris, where French President Emmanuel Macron hosted him for Bastille Day celebrations.

Trump remarked to the New York Times in an interview that “it was one of the most beautiful parades I have ever seen. And in fact, we should do one one day down Pennsylvania Ave.”

If the annual NDAA makes its way through, Trump may get most of what he has hoped for in terms of a grand military display in Washington.

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

Articles

Military working bees and other animals you didn’t know serve in the US military

Most people know about military working dogs, but there are some lesser known creatures that also conduct missions for the U.S. military:


1. Honeybees

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DF9_y5v_A3M
Honeybees can smell explosives and other compounds nearly as well as dogs can, so researchers have begun training bees in bomb detection. The bees are trained to believe that sugar water is typically located near TNT. Once they make the association between TNT and sugar, they can be employed in two ways.

First, they can be restricted to glass tubes at check points. When people, cars, and packages are moved through the checkpoint, handlers watch the bees to see if they start moving their proboscis, a feeding tube that is part of their mouth. Movement in multiple bees is a sure sign that explosives are in the area. Alternatively, the bees can be fitted with radio transponders and released into a large area. Handlers then watch on computer screens to see where the bees swarm to and then check that spot for a mine.

2. Dolphins and Sea Lions

Though they’re slowly being replaced by drones, the Navy still uses trained dolphins and sea lions to hunt for mines and enemy swimmers. The animals are trained over a number of years and then deployed in vulnerable harbors, marking the mines and swimmers for human personnel to clear or capture. The aquatic mammals mark divers by attaching devices to their scuba tanks or limbs. They mark mines by attaching a cable or buoy to the mine. The mammals have been deployed to Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and both U.S. coasts.

One team of dolphins and handlers in the program, MK8, can deploy ahead of an amphibious landing group and indicate safe routes for ships, Marines, and other forces.

3. Mules

The Marine Corps has come up with a few innovative ideas for resupplying forward Marines, including stepping back to the days of pack animals and running mules. Mules were used in Afghanistan and the Marines maintain a training program at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California to prepare troops to use pack animals overseas.

4. Insect cyborgs

Currently going through development and testing in various DARPA programs, cyborg insects are designed for disaster relief and search-and-rescue missions. The bugs; muscles are controlled through implants. Researchers are experimenting with different power sources for the rig and any sensors strapped to the bug. One option that has been tested is nuclear cyborg bugs, where a low-radioactivity isotope is slowly broken down to power transmitters.

5. Horses

Most horse units were transitioned to mechanized in the lead up to World War II, and almost every U.S. horse unit has been shut down. But, there is an active law enforcement horse patrol in the U.S. Air Force. At Vandenberg Air Force Base, police have to clear launchpads and the surrounding area during missile launches and some of the area is too rough for ATVs. Also, patrols of the 40 miles of beach cannot always be done with vehicles due to a federally protected species that lives on the base. The horse patrols cover both the rough mountains and the beaches where vehicles can’t go. The U.S. also trains Marines and Special Forces to ride horses and other animals for certain operations.

Articles

China could be preparing for a paramilitary invasion in the East China Sea

Tokyo delivered a humiliating public protest to Beijing for the intrusion of a vast Chinese “fishing fleet” escorted by more than a dozen coast guard and other law-enforcement vessels in or near waters of the disputed Senkaku islands.


Such protests are common in the ongoing cat and mouse game in the East and South China Seas, but they are usually delivered in private. In this case, Tokyo decided to turn its protest into political theater.

China’s Ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, was summoned to the foreign ministry, where news and television camera were waiting to film the encounter. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida kept Cheng waiting for ten minutes then entered, a stern look on his face, gesturing Cheng to sit down.

“Relations with China are becoming noticeably wors[e] because China is trying to change the status quo,” Kishida lectured Cheng, who looked embarrassed by the media presence. He said the Diaoyu, as China calls them, were Chinese territory and the two nations should “strive to reach a solution.”

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
A boarding team from the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) | U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery

Japan has become used to Chinese Coast Guard intrusions into its claimed territorial waters. On the average of once every two weeks, two or three Chinese ships slip into Senkaku waters. They stay for a couple hours then leave.

But there had been nothing like what happened August 8 when a flotilla of more than 230 “fishing boats” escorted by up to 28 Chinese Coast Guard and other law enforcement vessels virtually surrounded the Senkaku islands for several days.

It was not immediately clear exactly what message the Chinese were trying to convey, although Tokyo has been very vocal in supporting the Philippines in its legal action against China resulting in the July 11 ruling that confirmed all of Manila’s charges.

Was the latest intrusion a dress rehearsal for war?

The various scenarios for war in the East China Sea, and possibly in the South China Sea, usually fall into two main categories. There is the “accidental” fight scenario. A Chinese destroyer’s radar locks onto a Japanese warship. The Japanese captain fires back in self-defense and the incident spirals out of control.

That is one scenario. Another, possibly more realistic, is the “swarm” scenario: Several hundred “fishing boats” sail from ports in Zhejiang province for the Senkaku, where they overwhelm the Japanese Coast Guard by their sheer numbers.

This time, the fishing boats land some 200 or so commandoes disguised as fishermen or “settlers.” The Senkakus are not garrisoned by Japanese troops, so no shots are fired. The Chinese side says it is not using force, merely taking possession of what it claims to be its sovereign territory.

Tokyo feels obliged to respond, although the Chinese landing force is too large to dislodge by ordinary policing methods, such as those that have been used in the past when a handful of activists – Chinese and Japanese – tried to land on the disputed islands and plant their flags.

That would put Japan in the position of being the first party to fire shots, possibly landing elements of the Western Infantry Regiment, which was created and trained specifically to recapture islands. Meanwhile, Tokyo hurriedly consults with Washington seeking assurance that it will honor its commitments to defend Japan.

On more than one occasion, including in remarks from President Barack Obama himself, the United States has stated that the Senkaku come under the provisions of the joint security treaty as they are administered by Japan.

In the most recent incident, the estimated 230 Chinese fishing vessels escorted by Chinese law enforcement vessels made no effort to land anyone, though the Japanese Coast Guard shadowing the vessels kept a sharp eye out for any sign of it.

China boasts the world’s largest fishing fleet, but it is a matter of debate among security analysts as to extent to which China’s fishing fleet constitutes a paramilitary force, or as they sometimes say, a “maritime militia.” Somehow, a swarm of Chinese Fishing boats always seem to materialize on cue in disputes in the East and South China Sea.

The use of fishing boats, not to mention the nominally civilian coast guard, tends to blur the distinctions between what is civilian and what is military. In any conflict, the Japan and the U.S. would have to deal with ostensibly civilian boats that could flood the battlefield turning it into a confusing melee.

“China’s fishing fleet is being encouraged to fish in disputed waters . . . and are being encouraged to do so for geopolitical as well as commercial reasons,” says Alan Duport, a security analyst at the University of New South Wales.

Swarm tactics have been used often in the South China Sea. Hundreds of boats converged in the Gulf of Tonkin in 2014 in the dispute over the oil-drilling rig that the Chinese erected in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Beijing has dispatched swarms of fishing boats to Laconia Shoals off the coast of Sarawak to fish in Malaysia’s EEZ, with escorts of coast guard vessels to protect them should Kuala Lumpur try to arrest them. Similar confrontations have taken place in Indonesia’s South Chia Sea EEZ.

China has been commissioning new coast guard vessels, either converted navy frigates or purpose-built cutters, at an astonishing rate to the extent that it can now deploy ships in various corners of the contested waters simultaneously.

It may be better that principle actors in the unfolding conflict are civilian vessels. But certainly lurking nearby and ready to respond are the warships of the regular Chinese, Japanese, and America navies.

Articles

The 6 scariest military vehicles of WWI and WWII

When the military needs to get where they’re going, they climb into some of the most intimidating vehicles on the planet. Gun turrets, inches of armor, and aggressive stylings all make sure enemies know death is bearing down on them. In the World Wars though, many of the vehicles of industrial warfare were just getting started. These are six of the scariest military vehicles that generation served in.


Diesel Submarine

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Though quieter in a dive than their nuclear counterparts, diesel submarines were fraught with dangers. The batteries could catch fire and asphyxiate the crew or explode and sink the boat. Sub crews also had to fear their own weapons as torpedoes would sometimes “circle run,” traveling in a loop and hitting the sub that fired them.

M4 Sherman Tank

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Photo: German Wikimedia Commons

Early design flaws, such as ammunition storage in the tank turret, made these military vehicles susceptible to large explosions from minor hits. While the flaws were later fixed, it was just in time for the tanks to start facing off against newer Axis tanks with larger guns and thicker armor than the M4. Tank crews were forced to sandbag the inside of their vehicles and weld spare steel or old vehicle tires to the outside. The 3rd Armored Division deployed with 242 tanks and lost 1,348 over the course of the war.

Flying Aircraft Carrier

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Two were built: The USS Akron and the USS Macon. The Akron was introduced to the fleet at the end of 1931 and experienced fatal accidents in 1932 and 1933. The first occurred while the ship was attempting to moor in California. Three ground crew members were killed and one was injured. In 1933, a crash at sea resulted in 73 of the 76 members of the crew dying and the total loss of the ship.

One of the survivors, Lt. Cmdr. Herbert Wiley, later took command of the USS Macon. Another storm at sea in 1934 brought down the Macon, but due to the addition of life jackets and the launching of rescue boats, only two members of the crew died. All three fatal accidents involving the airships, as well as multiple other crashes, were caused or complicated by trouble balancing the large ships’ lift and ballast. Flying aircraft carriers were largely abandoned until November of last year when DARPA put out a call for new designs to carry drones.

Mark I Tank

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The first tank to see combat, the British Mark 1 was revolutionary, but serving in it was rough. Inadequate ventilation meant the crew breathed carbon monoxide, fuel and oil vapors, and cordite fumes. Temperatures in the tank could climb to over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Crews endured the heat and noxious gasses while wearing metal face masks because rivets from the hull would shoot through the cabin when struck by enemy rounds.

Albatross D.III

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Within two months of fielding, multiple wing failures led to the aircraft being grounded until it could be reinforced. One of the failures occurred while the famed Red Baron piloted it. In addition, the radiator was positioned immediately above the pilot, meaning holes from enemy fire caused the hot radiator fluid to immediately boil onto the pilot’s face.

Sherman DD Amphibious Tank

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A descendant of the M4 Sherman above, the DD carried a rubber screen that would hold out water and allow it to float. But the craft could only handle waves up to one foot. They were deployed at D-Day where many sank due to rough seas and being launched far from shore. Crews were given breathing apparatuses in case they floundered, but the equipment only provided five minutes of air.

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Articles

This band hires vets — especially when they go on tour

As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.

Not only does the band provide direct jobs for veterans, but they also raise money for different veteran initiatives — like PTSD awareness — through their merchandise site, which also acts as a resource guide for accessing help through various links.

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)
Five Finger Death Punch Videographer Nick Siemens.

Zoltán Báthory, guitarist for Five Finger Death Punch, is a founding board member of the veterans nonprofit Home Deployment Project, which provides safe places to live for displaced veterans suffering from symptoms of PTSD. He is also a member on the Board of Advisors at the anti-Poaching organization Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife. Although Zoltán himself is a civilian, his support for the military is without question.

“I have a lot of veterans around me and it’s not an accident.”

Videographer Nick Siemens is a Marine Corps Combat veteran touring with Five Finger Death Punch. He describes the energy and movement of working with the band as being very similar to that of his time as an active duty Marine.

“I absolutely fell in love with this job and it gave me a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging that I had lost when I left the Marine Corps and I haven’t looked back.”

Check out the video above for an inside look at what it’s like for the veterans on tour with Five Finger Death Punch.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 reasons to be thankful for military kids

I’m feeling thankful. Maybe because I know orders are on the horizon and there is “change” in the air. Or maybe I’m thankful in spite of it.

Sensing the winds, I can’t help but feel thankful for my military kids. It’s been a long decade filled with multiple schools and countless moves. They’ve said goodbye, more than hello. Yet, they are always ready for adventure. My kids, probably like your kids, always seem to roll with punches, ignoring the winds or leaning hard into it. As a parent, I draw my strength from their resiliency, their never-quit mentality after so many moves. There are many reasons to be thankful for our military kids this season, but here are just a few.


1. Will look an adult in the eyes.

A subtle characteristic of nearly all military kids over the age of six is their uncanny ability to make eye contact with adults when speaking to them. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Military kids can not only speak to adults, but they make eye contact when they do. Sure, my theory isn’t 100% proven, but I challenge you to talk to any military tween or teen for more than five minutes and you’ll notice their ability to hold a conversation with you while making eye contact. Whether respect for adults comes from experience, diversity or taught at home, I’m thankful for it.

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

(Photo by Ben White)

2. Are little patriots. 

Whether it’s on a playground, in a classroom, at a sporting event or at a ceremony, when the music of our National Anthem starts, military kids will be the first to freeze, turn to the flag and hand to their chest. Grown adults sometimes forget (or don’t know) to remove their hats, stop SnapChat-ing or put down their hot dog when the anthem plays. You can spot a military kid or a Boy Scout in any crowd when the anthem plays. Military kids have watched their parent put on the uniform with a that little flag on the side arm every day. The American flag is a part of their upbringing and I’m thankful for it.

3. Are includers.

There isn’t’ a military kid around that hasn’t been the new kid at least once. Empathy is learned through experience and exposure – military kids have years of both. My kids will nearly break out in hives if they think someone is being left out at lunch or at birthday party. And I know this character trait is runs in deep with military families. Drawing on experience, military kids include the outsider. It’s their superpower.They will embrace the different because they see themselves in others and I’m thankful for it.

4. Are active participants. 

Need a someone to play goalkeeper? Need a volunteer to be a lunch buddy? Need a kid to stay behind and clean up? Yep, if there is a military kid in a crowd, they’ll raise their hand. Military kids just want to be a part of action, they want to participate, try out and be helpful. Especially after a tough move, military kids are forced to sit on the sidelines until they see an opening, sometimes they have to make their own opening. Military kids are usually all in, all the time and I’m thankful for it.

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

(Photo by Gabriel Baranski)

5. Will show up.

New kid having a birthday party? Military kids will show up. School fundraiser? They’ll be there. Need a fifth to play basketball? Just ask. Stocking food at the food bank? They will be five minutes early. Military kids will show up. Whether it’s their upbringing or military values –If my military kid says he’ll will be there, he’ll be there. You can count on military kids and I’m thankful for it.

6. Know problems are designed to be solved. 

Military kids, especially the older ones, have the deeper understanding and experience to know there is a solution to nearly every problem. They’ve been thrown into a litany of situations and forced to problem solve. They learn to adapt. They have to, it is survival. From putting on brave face walking into a new school to helping their family shoulder another deployment, they know problems are just challenges ready to be tackled. Military kids are old souls and I’m thankful for it.

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

(Photo by Marisa Howenstine)

7. Are good friends.

Once a friend to a military kid, consider yourself a friend for life. A classmate may not have been in a child’s life for long, but trust me, our kids remember nearly every playdate, experience and conversation. To a military kid, a friendship is treasure they pick up along their journey, a collection of friendships that make up the quilted memory called childhood. Our kids will write, FaceTime, SnapChat, IG and message the heck of out long-distance friends. Military kids have friends across states and continents, but it’s never out of sight out of mind. They are professional friend makers and mean it when they say, “let’s stay in touch.” Kids may not see each other in five years but will pick up exactly where they left off. In truth, our kids need friendships probably more than we’d like to admit. But we promise there is no better friend to have than a military kid. They make the best of friends and I’m thankful for it.

8. Are good for schools. 

There are 1.1 million school aged military kids and most attend public schools. Military parents are usually engaged and involved with their child’s education. Whether it’s volunteering, attending ceremonies, homework help or parent-teacher conferences – military kids come with active parents. Teachers and staff can count on their military family population to enroll students who will enrich their school. All military kids have health insurance and a least one parent is always employed which add stability while living a transient lifestyle. Military students bring a fresh perspective and a healthy dose of tolerance into their classroom. Since military students will attend between six and nine schools through their K-12 education, schools can count on our kids to bring their backpack full of resiliency on their first day of school. They make a school a better place for everyone and I’m thankful for it.

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

(Photo by Mike Fox)

9. Are professional road trippers.

Military kids can make a chaotic PCS move into a full-on adventure. They can turn their seven-state DITY move with two dogs into a family vacation. Sure, it’s painful to spend hours in the car with smelly siblings, but I’ll bet you military kids know more about the 50 states, obscure museums, best food on the go and random side show fun than their civilian counterparts. They can sleep in any bed, on the floor, in the car or any restaurant booth almost on demand. They are giddy about a hotel pools, strange souvenir shops, mountain tops, desert sunsets, giant trees and skyscrapers – military kids never tire of being surprised by world around them. They don’t long to return home, but because home is wherever their family is together and for that, I’m thankful.

10. Embrace diversity because they live it.

The upside of moving around the United States and the globe is military kids are exposed to different languages, cultures, cities and people. At ten-years old, my son could read the metro map at the Frankfurt, Germany train station better than I could. At eight years old, my daughter only knew the name for restroom as Water Closet. They would stay up to watch the Iron Bowl (Alabama vs. Auburn) because that’s where they were born. My kids think Texas is best state in the union, but Ohio is the place they want live because it snows. However, they consider Virginia home because that’s the house they liked best. They witnessed firsthand the Syrian refugee crisis on a train trip to Austria and are forever changed by it. They’ve walked halls and gardens of Alcazar in Spain. They’ve attended mass at Notre Dame in Paris and can point out art from Raphael and Michelangelo in the Vatican because of a school project they finished at a DODEA school. They’ve had school field trips to National Archives in D.C. and placed wreaths on U.S. military tombstones in France, they danced through cathedrals older than the United States and did somersaults on ancient ruins in Rome. Their favorite sport is futbol, but not the American kind. They speak a little of Spanish, German and French, but wish they knew Chinese and Arabic. We are raising good beings. Whether it’s living in Japan or England, Kansas or California – this life allows us to expose them to so many different people and cultures – something their civilian peers can’t easily do. They don’t know a world full people who look and think like them and they are better humans for it. It’s a gift for our kids to live this military lifestyle and I am wholeheartedly thankful for it.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Discovery’s ‘Deadliest Catch’ features Coast Guard’s search for survivors

Capt. Wild Bill Wichrowski’s year started tragically.

A Navy veteran, Wichrowski is one of the captains on “Deadliest Catch,” a Discovery Channel series about Alaska’s crab industry. He was close friends with two of the five men who died when the Scandies Rose, a 130-foot crab boat, went down in icy, turbulent conditions in the Gulf of Alaska on New Year’s Eve. Two crew members survived.


The Coast Guard’s 20-hour search for survivors will be featured on “Deadliest Catch” at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Eastern time).

“It’s hard to drum all this up again, really,” Wichrowski said. “You lose friends. You lose family. And the part that sticks is that any time, it could be you.”

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Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski is in the wheelhouse at the helm of the Summer Bay.

The episode of the long-running reality series follows the Coast Guard’s role from the time it received a distress call until the search, which covered 1,400 square miles, was suspended.

Although Wichrowski was not in contact directly with the Coast Guard during that time, he followed the rescue mission’s progress closely.

“They’re our lifeline,” Wichrowski said. “Some of the stuff they do with the helicopters and the C-130s and the ships and the hard-bottom inflatables [boats] is truly amazing. The Coast Guard’s our last chance for survival when we’re having trouble.”

The investigation into the Scandies Rose disaster is ongoing and could last “many months,” said Scott McCann, the Coast Guard’s public affairs officer for the 17th District.

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Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski stands proudly on deck of his boat.

Wichrowski’s own ties to the military began early.

His father, Charles Thomas Wichrowski, was a drill instructor at Parris Island in South Carolina during the Korean War. The youngest of three brothers, Wichrowski said he did not always appreciate his strict upbringing in Pennsylvania.

“I probably didn’t really like [my father] that much at the time, but he was training me to be a leader from Day One,” Wichrowski said. “In his eyes, there was only one place to be, and that was in charge.”

Wichrowski’s tour in the Navy happened almost by accident.

Before he wrecked his father’s new car on homecoming night, he had planned to go to school and study business administration. The cost of the repairs, along with other financial constraints in his family, prompted Wichrowski to enlist in 1975.

Armed with a love of the ocean, he headed West. He served as an electrician’s mate at naval stations in California, Idaho and Washington State.

Wichrowski enjoyed the camaraderie and travel in the military and proved to be invaluable in stressful situations. He recalled one time a typhoon in Taiwan knocked out a generator. Wichrowski ran to the other end of the tossed ship on a wall, hurdling people along the way, to work on it.

On another occasion in San Diego, Wichrowski was about to go on liberty when a transformer caught fire. He was not on duty, but he restored the power anyway, then left suddenly to meet his girlfriend before other potential issues arose.

“When I got back, the XO [executive officer] on the bridge, he had seen the whole thing,” Wichrowski said. “And I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to get my butt reamed.’ But he said he was pretty amazed about how quickly I reacted.”

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

Wichrowski said the bonds of boat crews are similar to those in the military. Photo courtesy of Discovery.

Wichrowski, who served for four years, said what he learned in the Navy resonates today.

“It’s the whole reason why I’m successful,” he said.

The bonds formed among boat crews are not unlike those developed in the military. That’s why the sinking of the Scandies Rose hit Wichrowski hard. He knew the boat’s captain, Gary Cobban Jr., and engineer, Art Gacanias, well, but thankfully the loss of life was not worse.

Landon Cheney, Wichrowski’s No. 2 man on the Summer Bay, used to work on the Scandies Rose and considered returning before it sank.

“I’m pretty certain that if he was on board, he wouldn’t have made it,” Wichrowski said.

As painful as the loss of the Scandies Rose remains, Wichrowski intends to watch Tuesday night.

“I hope to,” he said. “… It should never be forgotten, but it’s still tough to review over and over.”

Visit Deadliest Catch on Discovery for information on upcoming episodes.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.