Military investigators are trying to piece together the cause of a crash that killed 15 Marines and a sailor in Mississippi in July, but it could be a year or more until any information becomes public.
In the meantime, the Marine Corps’ fleet of KC130T transport planes remains grounded. That plane is similar to the one that crashed near Itta Bena on July 10.
April Phillips, a spokeswoman for the Naval Safety Center, said August 21 that final reports often don’t become public for 12 to 18 months following a crash. Even then, much of the information in the reports is often withheld from public view.
“Ours are done solely to ensure what happened doesn’t happen again,” Phillips said, saying that various military commanders must endorse the report before it’s finished.
Marines and other investigators finished collecting debris August 3, recovering all of the plane’s major components, said Marine Forces Reserve spokeswoman Lt. Stephanie L. Leguizamon. She said last week that there’s still work going on to clean up the crash area.
Naval Safety Center investigators are both reconstructing the wreckage and interviewing witnesses. Their report will ultimately include recommendations to enhance safety.
Victims included nine Marines based at Stewart Air National Guard base in Newburgh, New York, who flew and crewed the plane, plus six Marines and a Navy Corpsman from an elite Marine Raider battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The passengers were headed for pre-deployment training in Yuma, Arizona. Cargo included at least some ammunition.
Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James has told reporters that whatever went wrong began when the plane was at cruising altitude. Most of the plane pancaked upside down into a field, but part of it, including the cockpit, broke off and landed far from the fuselage and wings. Debris was scattered for miles over fields, woods, and ponds.
Witnesses said they saw the plane descend from high altitude with an engine smoking, with some describing what pilots call a “flat spin,” where a plane twirls around like a boomerang.
Phillips said the plane didn’t have an in-flight data recorder. That, plus the lack of survivors, could make the debris crucial to determining what happened.
“A lot it, in this case, is likely to come from forensic evidence,” she said.
Phillips said the C-130 and its variants have historically been one of the safest planes operated by the Marine Corps. The Navy classifies its most serious incidents as Class A mishaps, involving death, permanent disability, or more than $2 million in damage. Only two in-flight Class A mishaps were recorded before the Mississippi crash, both in 2002. A KC-130R experienced a flash fire and crashed into a mountain in Pakistan while nearing an airfield, killing seven people. A KC130F crash landed shortly after taking off inCalifornia, causing injuries but no deaths.
The New York squadron is the last Marine unit flying the KC-130T version and is scheduled to upgrade to a newer version in 2019. Only the remaining 12 KC-130Ts are affected by the grounding.
The Pentagon said that after Syrian jets had bombed US-backed forces fighting ISIS in Syria and ground forces headed their way with artillery and armored vehicles, US jets made a strafing run at the vehicles to stop their advance.
But then a Syrian Su-22 popped up laden with bombs.
“They saw the Su-22 approaching,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters on June 21st, as CNN notes. “It again had dirty wings; it was carrying ordnance. They did everything they could to try to warn it away. They did a head-butt maneuver, they launched flares, but ultimately the Su-22 went into a dive and it was observed dropping munitions and was subsequently shot down.”
A US F/A-18E off the USS George H.W. Bush in the Mediterranean then fired an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile at the Syrian jet, but the Su-22 had deployed flares causing the missile to miss. The US jet followed up with an AIM-120 medium range air-to-air missile which struck its target, US officials told CNN.
The pilot ejected over ISIS territory, and Syrian forces declared him missing in action.
The focus of the US’s airpower in recent years has turned to providing air support against insurgencies or forces that do not have fighter jets of their own. Before the Su-22, the US had not shot down a manned enemy aircraft since 1999.
Since the downing of the Syrian jet, Russia has threatened to target US and US-led coalition jets flying over Syria west of the Euphrates river.
Both Syria’s Su-22 and the US’s F/A-18E Super Hornet are updated versions of 1970s aircraft, but Russia and the US both have much more advanced systems to bring to bear. Fortunately, an air war seems unlikely between major powers in Syria.
The “citizen soldiers” of the National Guard and Reserve have a long history of stepping up when America needed them.
Here are 8 heroes who left their civilian jobs to kick the enemy in the teeth:
1. The general who waded ashore with the first wave on D-Day
The son of the popular president, Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. served in both World Wars. In the first one, he was a reserve officer who received a Distinguished Service Cross for rescuing a wounded man under fire, a Silver Star for leading his men while blinded by a gas attack, and an Army Distinguished Service Medal for his leadership in battalion command, along with another Silver Star for valor.
It was in World War II that the reservist really shone. He was decorated for valor in the Tunisian Campaign three times, twice for leading his own men into heavy fire and once for taking command of 3,000 Frenchmen and leading them. He received a Medal of Honor for his actions on D-Day when he landed on the beaches with the first wave and personally led waves of men through the deadly surf.
2. The private first class who took out an enemy pillbox with just a bomb and a knife
Pfc. Michael J. Perkins was in Belleu Bois, France Oct. 27, 1918 with his Massachusetts National Guard infantry company when Germans started throwing grenades at his unit from a pillbox. Perkins crawled up to the pillbox door and, when the Germans opened it to throw out more grenades, he threw his own bomb inside.
Immediately after the explosion, Perkins rushed in with his trench knife and began stabbing people until the 25 survivors surrendered, giving the Americans a new pillbox and 7 functioning machineguns, according to Perkins’ Medal of Honor citation.
3. A convicted deserter who received the Medal of Honor and other medals for valor
4. The leader of the 2nd Ranger Battalion and the most daring mission on D-Day
Lt. Col. Earl Rudder led one of the most dangerous missions of D-Day, the assault up the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc. Rudder and his 2nd Ranger Battalion climbed sheer cliffs with tiny rope ladders while under fire from German defenders.
In 1945, he became president and the only reservist to order an atomic strike, something he did twice. He also led America for most of the Korean War and the start of the Cold War.
6. The corporal who assumed command of a platoon attack in World War I
The Alabama National Guard’s Company G of the 167th Infantry was just starting its assault on a fortified, elevated position in Jul. 1918 when the platoon commander and platoon sergeant were both killed. Cpl. Sidney E. Manning was also severely wounded but rallied the 35 surviving members of the platoon and continued the assault.
Staff Sgt. Beauford T. Anderson was repelling a Japanese assault with the 96th Infantry Regiment (Organized Reserves) when a Japanese assault hit his unit’s flank. He and his men fell back into an old tomb and tried to fight off the attack.
When he ran low on ammo, he grabbed a dud mortar round and threw it at the Japanese. The resulting explosion tore a hole in the attacking force, so Anderson armed and threw more mortar rounds. He was credited with single-handedly defeating the attack and received a Medal of Honor. He also received a Bronze Star with Valor for rescuing two wounded soldiers under fire on Leyte.
8. The private who tried to take a machinegun nest with a bayonet
Pfc. George Dilboy was walking with his platoon leader in the 103rd Infantry Regiment on a railroad track when they were attacked by an enemy machinegun only 100 yards away. Dilboy immediately returned fire while standing in the open. When that didn’t work, he sprinted at the gun with his bayonet fixed until the gunners nearly amputated his right leg and hit him multiple times in the body.
In the roughly seven months since the 2nd Brigade deployed, the unit’s numbers have swelled to more than 2,100 paratroopers deployed to Iraq.
It is the largest contingent among the thousands of Fort Bragg soldiers serving as part of an international coalition to defeat ISIS. That coalition is led by Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.
On July 10, Work said the Falcon Brigade can be proud of its efforts to defeat ISIS through advising and assisting its Iraqi partners.
A few years ago, officials said the Iraqi army was largely defeated — broken, dispirited, and pushed to the gates of Baghdad. Today, it is celebrating a major victory.
“Our mission, the reason we matter, is to help the Iraqi Security Forces win,” Work said. “The fight continues, but they have dominated ISIS in Mosul. The key now is establishing a durable security that enables governance to extend its reach.”
While Iraqi forces have been at the forefront of the victory, American paratroopers have played no small role in the success.
“It’s been hard, violent work every day,” Work said of fighting in Mosul. “The Iraqi Security Forces have fought doggedly to take terrain from ISIS and liberate the people of Mosul. ISIS had years to prepare its defense, and it gave nothing away. Our partners took it from them, and we’ve been helping them attack. At the same time, we are extraordinarily proud of our partners. They assume the lion’s share of the physical risk, but we attack a common enemy together. Their success is our success.”
When the brigade’s soldiers arrived in Iraq, the battle to defeat ISIS was still raging in east Mosul, Work said.
Now, that part of the city is thriving “despite being just over five months removed from intense ground combat.”
Work said the brigade’s paratroopers gave invaluable support to their Iraqi counterparts, advising and assisting ground commanders and providing artillery fires, intelligence, and logistical support.
As the fight moved to west Mosul, the paratroopers moved with their Iraqi counterparts, inching closer to the embattled city.
“We helped decimate a formidable ISIS mortar and artillery force in west Mosul,” Work said. “We helped destroy ISIS infantry, logistics, and suicide car bombs so that our partners could continue to attack on the hard days. We were with the commanders calling the shots, delivering fires that helped them dominate, and we always put them first. Every day and every night.”
Townsend congratulated Iraqi forces on July 10 for their “historic victory against an evil enemy.”
“The Iraqis prevailed in the most extended and brutal combat I have ever witnessed,” he said.
As commander of Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve, Townsend is the top general overseeing the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. He’s one of several hundred 18th Airborne Corps soldiers who form the core of the anti-ISIS headquarters.
Several other Fort Bragg units, including the 1st Special Forces Command, are also deployed in support of the campaign.
Townsend spoke to members of the media via a video feed from Baghdad.
He said ISIS has now lost its capital in Iraq and its largest population center held anywhere in the world. That’s a decisive blow to ISIS and something for Iraqis to celebrate.
Townsend said forces also are making progress against ISIS in Syria, where partner forces working with American and coalition troops have surrounded ISIS’s capital of Raqqa.
The general said ISIS would fight hard to keep that city, much as it did in Mosul.
“Make no mistake, it is a losing cause,” he said.
Townsend said Iraqi forces have a plan in the works to continue to pursue ISIS in other parts of the country. He said he doesn’t anticipate any decrease in US troops in Iraq following the liberation of Mosul.
American forces, including those from Fort Bragg, are expected to play a key role in those efforts.
While the city of Mosul is now firmly under the control of Iraqi forces, Work said, no one will be celebrating too long.
“A lot of hard work remains. The Iraqi Security Forces will continue to attack the remnants of ISIS, search for caches, and free the people of west Mosul,” he said. “The transition for the Iraqis to consolidate their gains is critical now. It requires detailed intelligence, organization, and logistics. Our paratroopers will continue to give our best advice, help our partners attack ISIS, and keep enabling their operations.”
The 2nd Brigade deployed seven battalions to aid in the anti-ISIS fight. Most of the soldiers are involved in providing security or advising their Iraqi counterparts.
But, Work said, all soldiers contributed to the efforts and successes of the unit.
“All seven of our battalion teams have been tremendous. 37th Engineer Battalion has run a major staging base that is the hub of all logistics for a very decentralized coalition adviser network,” he said. “407th Brigade Support Battalion assists the Iraqis with advancing their own logistics while also sustaining and maintaining our adviser teams. Finally, the 2nd Battalion of the 319th Field Artillery devastated ISIS’s once-formidable mortar and artillery battery.”
Work also said the brigade has relied on junior soldiers to step up and fill important roles in the fight.
“We have a junior intelligence analyst, Spc. Cassandra Ainsworth, who is brilliant. We rely heavily on her thinking, on her analysis, and synthesis when we are making major recommendations to Iraqi generals,” he said. “We also have a junior signal soldier, Spc. Malik Turner, whom I count on daily to keep us connected securely in very austere environments. He is exceptional.”
Work said the brigade was the “right team at the right time” to help in Iraq.
“There is a lot of hard work ahead, but the Falcons — some of the best trained, best equipped, and best led paratroopers in the world — helped the Iraqis win in Mosul,” he said.
With the city liberated, Work said, the soldiers’ attention will turn to securing those gains, improving the Iraqi forces, and taking the fight to ISIS forces in other parts of the country.
“The first priority is helping the Iraqis sink in their hold on west Mosul, helping them set conditions that allow the government to start delivering services and political goods,” he said. “Mosul is also a major battle in a much broader campaign to eliminate ISIS, and the fight continues. We will continue to give our best military advice, but the government of Iraq will decide the next objective. Whatever they decide, we are confident that we will continue to help them attack our common enemy.”
F-35B Lightning II aircraft, attached to the F-35B detachment of the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced), are currently in the Indo-Pacific region deployed aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1).
Wasp, flagship of Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), is operating in the region “to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.”
F-35B flying in “Third Day of War” configuration.
(US Marine Corps photo)
Images being released these days show the Marines STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) aircraft in VMFA-121 markings carrying external weapons during blue water ops, a configuration being tested for quite some time and known as CAS (Close Air Support) “Beast Mode” (or “Bomb Truck”).
In particular, the aircraft are loaded with 2x AIM-9X (on the outer pylons) and 4x GBU-12 500-lb LGB (Laser Guided Bombs).
Marines load a Guided Bomb Unit (GBU) 12 onto an F-35B Lightning II aircraft attached to the F-35B detachment of the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced) aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp, flagship of Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the Indo-Pacific region to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sean Galbreath)
This configuration involving external loads is also referred to as a “Third Day of War” configuration as opposed to a “First Day of War” one in which the F-35 would carry weapons internally to maintain low radar cross-section and observability from sensors.
As we explained in a previous story: “as a conflict evolves and enemy air defense assets including sensors, air defense missile and gun systems and enemy aircraft are degraded by airstrikes (conducted also by F-35s in “Stealth Mode”) the environment becomes more permissive: in such a scenario the F-35 no longer relies on low-observable capabilities for survivability so it can shift to carrying large external loads.”
LO (Low Observability) is required for penetrating defended airspaces and knocking out defenses at the beginning of a conflict, but after the careful work of surface-to-air missile hunting is done (two, three days, who really knows?), the F-35 is expected to “go beast”.
An F-35B Lightning II aircraft, attached to the F-35B detachment of the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced), lands aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp, flagship of Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), is operating in the Indo-Pacific region to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)
In “Beast Mode“, exploiting the internal weapon bays, the F-35A can carry 2x AIM-9X (external pylons), 2x AIM-120 AMRAAM (internal bomb bay) and 4x GBU-31 2,000-lb (pylons) and 2x GBU-31 PGMs (internal bay). It’s not clear whether the F-35B can launch from a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship in this configuration.
On Sept. 27, 2018, U.S. Marine Corps F-35B jets made their combat debut. U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, the “Wake Island Avengers”, of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, used their F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters to hit insurgent targets in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province launching from U.S. Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) on station in the Persian Gulf. The aircraft used in the strike were loaded with GBU-32 1000-lb JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) but were also equipped with the externally mounted GAU-22 25mm gun pod in addition to the weapons in the internal bays. And sported the radar reflectors too.
An F-35B takes off with 2x AIM-9x and 2x GBU-12 LGBs.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sarah Myers)
Back to the “Beast Mode”, F-35B have launched from the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) with inert 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided test bombs during operational testing and the third phase of developmental testing for the STOVL stealth aircraft conducted by Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1), Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) in 2016. Still, the ones just released are probably the very first images of the aircraft launching in “Beast Mode” operationally.
Flight deck crew members guide an F-35B Lightning II aircraft, attached to the F-35B detachment of the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced), in preparation for flight operations aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp, flagship of Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), is operating in the Indo-Pacific region to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)
According to a Pentagon test office document recently obtained by Bloomberg, “Durability testing data indicates service-life of initial F-35B short-takeoff-vertical landing jets bought by Marine Corps “is well under” expected service life of 8,000 fleet hours; “may be as low as 2,100″ hours.”
This would mean that some of the early F-35B jets would start hitting service life limit in 2026.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
In the spring of 1970, U.S. forces attempted to fracture an NVA supply line in the Vietnam jungle, as 79 soldiers from Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry came under a vicious attack and became trapped in a heavily bunkered NVA fortification — unable to escape.
With nowhere to run, the troops began taking heavy casualties.
The hellish area was covered in thick towering trees which ruled out any possibility of dropping off extra supplies or evacuating the wounded. The only way to get to the ambushed men was from the ground.
If these ground troops were to lose this area to the enemy, the hope of an offensive victory would have died. The men at the point of attack managed to pull their wounded brothers out of harm’s way and quickly render care. The American forces formed a secure perimeter with the men they had left.
“Human instinct tells you to stay on that ground don’t move, return fire, don’t move,” Ken Woodard of Charlie Company explains during an interview. “You can get killed.”
The men did just that, without being ordered.
They were then able to create a base of fire putting rounds down range — buying time.
The Marines and sailors of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit are concluding their 2019 deployment this week, just in time for Thanksgiving.
Departing in waves from the three ships of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, the 11th MEU conducted an amphibious landing aboard Camp Pendleton, California, and aircraft landings at Miramar, California, and Yuma, Arizona.
At each site, Marines and sailors were greeted by family members and welcomed home after seven months away.
During the deployment, the Boxer ARG and 11th MEU spent time in the U.S. 7th Fleet and U.S. 5th Fleet areas of operations, and conducted training in Kuwait, Jordan, Djibouti, Brunei, the Philippines, and Malaysia.
Families and friends of Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), await their loved ones at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Nov. 25, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jaime Reyes)
“We have traveled a long way and the Marines and sailors of the 11th MEU have risen to every challenge. They have built important partnerships and have been ready to help, ready to respond, and ready to fight if necessary,” said Col. Fridrik Fridriksson, commanding officer of the 11th MEU. “I am incredibly proud of each and every Marine and sailor in the ARG/MEU team.”
11th MEU consists of the command element; the aviation combat element comprised of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced); the ground combat element comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3/5; and the logistics combat element comprised of Combat Logistics Battalion 11.
Boxer ARG is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P Murtha (LPD 26), and Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).
The ARG/MEU departed their home port of San Diego and began their deployment May 1, 2019.
The weapons arrived on an Air Serbia flight and were scheduled to fly on another plane from Belgrade to Portland, Oregon. The Lebanese military said in a statement that they were sending the missiles to Portland so that they could be turned in as part of a deal with the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.
Air Serbia operated the aircraft where the missiles were found and has assisted in the investigation.
AGM-114 Hellfire missiles can be launched from aircraft, boats, and land vehicles and is primarily designed to defeat enemy armor. It carries either an 18 or 20-pound warhead and can travel up to five miles at 995 mph to destroy a target.
After masterminding the attacks at Pearl Harbor, Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto knew that his country’s dominance of the Pacific Ocean would not last against the U.S.’s industrial might.
He began forming plans for a weapon that could terrify the U.S., especially eastern cities like New York and Washington D.C. He thought a campaign of vicious attacks on the east and west coasts would convince the U.S. to quickly sue for peace.
At the time, some submarines carried a reconnaissance plane. Yamamoto asked his engineers if they could devise a submarine that would instead carry three bombers each and have range to carry the bombers around South America to the east coast of the U.S.
The planes landed on the water and were recovered using a crane on the deck. The M6A1 Seiran torpedo-bombers were designed for the I-400. They had wings that rotated and folded along the fuselage and even the tail folded down to fit in its tiny hangar.
In addition to their aircraft, the subs carried a 140mm cannon, 4 anti-aircraft guns, and had 8 torpedo tubes.
To help the subs avoid U.S. Navy sonar, the subs were coated in a rubber and asphalt blend that absorbed sound waves.
By the time the first sub took to the water at the end of December 1944, Japan was in rapid retreat across the Pacific. The original I-400 mission to attack the U.S. mainland had been scrapped long before.
The idea of using the planes to deliver biological weapons was considered, and then a Kamikaze attack on the Panama Canal was planned and canceled.
Finally, the I-400 and I-401 were sent to destroy the U.S. carrier fleet at Ulithi Atoll before they could invade the Japanese mainland. The subs were to send their six bombers on Kamikaze attacks against the 15 carriers there.
To maximize the chance that the planes would reach their targets, the Japanese admiralty ordered the planes be painted silver with U.S. markings. Though the pilots protested, the illegally camouflaged planes were placed in the subs and sent to sea.
Luckily, Japan surrendered while the subs were staging for the attack. Both subs were captured by the U.S. Navy. American officers studied the ships but then sank them before Soviet officers could ask to see them. There was concern that the Soviet Union would develop its own version if it saw the I-400.
It’s December and many are doing their holiday shopping or making a wishlist of gifts they’d like to receive.
During the Future Ground Combat Vehicle Summit in Levonia, Michigan early in December, Army acquisition professionals and program managers had their own wishlists that included an assortment of robots and ground combat vehicles meant to protect Soldiers and give pause to potential adversaries.
Brian McVeigh, project manager for Force Protection, was big on robots.
Over 7,000 were fielded in just the last decade, he noted. The challenge now is to move the most effective ones into programs of record.
Among these, he said, is the M-160 Robotic Mine Flail, which efficiently clears land mines using rotating chains that flail the ground. It is also rugged enough to be protected against mine explosion fragments.
The M-160 made it into a program of record this year before the holidays, and a number are already involved in route-clearance missions in Afghanistan.
By 2025, dismounted Soldiers will conduct foot patrols alongside robots called Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport, or SMET, vehicles that carry rucksacks and other equipment that will lighten the Soldier load, McVeigh said.
In order to get these to the warfighter sooner rather than later, the Army is procuring them through an Other Transactional Agreement, or OTA, he said.
The OTA got the program rolling fast, with requirements out in April and a down-select six months later in November, he said. Four contracts were awarded for 20 vehicles each, which will be tested by Soldiers in two brigades until the end of next year. Low-rate initial production is expected to follow with a production contract in place.
The requirements were limited to give manufacturers more flexibility in the trade-space, he said. The only firm requirements were that SMET be able to haul 1,000 pounds off-road, cover 60 miles in 72 hours and cost $100,000 or less each.
The OTA was used because Army leaders prioritized getting the weight off the backs of dismounted Soldiers, he noted.
Common Robotic System (Heavy) is designed to disarm or disable unexploded ordnance using a highly dexterous arm remotely controlled by a Soldier. The Army just published requests for information from industry for the wireless-range manipulator arm, McVeigh said.
Feedback from industry on CRS-H has been good, he said. It is expected that by next summer, draft performance specifications will be issued, and it is hoped that fielding can begin as early as 2020. This system is also going the OTA route.
The Enhanced Robotics Payload is another explosives ordnance disposal robot. A request for proposal has been released, McVeigh. And in October, a contract was awarded to Endeavor Robotics for another EOD robot, the Man-Transportable Robotics System Increment II.
Ground combat vehicles
David Dopp, program manager for Mobile Protected Firepower Vehicle, Ground Combat Systems, said a request for proposal was released in late November for MPF.
The MPF he envisions can be described as a light tank. It will be light in the sense that it will weigh less than half as much as an Abrams tank, which will allow two to fit inside a C-17 aircraft. That means its armor will be less than an Abrams.
The MPF will also sport a gun in the 105mm to 120mm range, similar to the ones on early versions of the Abrams, Dopp said.
It is expected that the MPF will provide infantry brigade combat teams with a long-range, direct-fire capability for forcible entry and breaching operations, he noted, so it is not by any stretch a tank replacement.
There will not be a lot of requirements other than MPF being light and powerful, he said. Army leaders are eager to quickly get it into the hands of Soldiers for testing.
A contract could be awarded by early FY19 with low-rate initial production to follow, he said.
Maj. Gen. John Charlton, commander, Army Test and Evaluation Command, said that although the Next Generation Combat Vehicle fielding isn’t expected until 2035, a lot of the components that may find their way onto the NGCV in one shape or another are being currently tested around the Army.
Two such systems that will likely inform development of NGCV, he said, are the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station-Javelin and the Stryker Remote Weapons Station.
CROWS-J allows the warfighter to remotely engage targets with precision fire from the Javelin while on the move, he said. Stryker RWS is a 30mm cannon on an unmanned turret. Both systems keep the gunner inside the vehicle, in a less exposed area than the turret.
Electro-magnetic interference testing is now underway on the sensors and software, he said.
There are some challenges to overcome in putting this technology on the NGCV, he said, describing a few.
Although the gunner is tucked inside the vehicle, rounds must still be loaded and reloaded in the gun, which means being exposed to enemy fire and working in cramped conditions, he said.
Getting everything working correctly will require a lot of software development, he said. This is probably the most difficult challenge.
And finally, situational awareness could be lost with the crew fully buttoned up inside the vehicle, he said. This could be particularly bad in urban terrain where Soldiers cannot get good visuals of what’s around and above them.
The situational awareness issue could be addressed through adding sensors and cameras so the crew doesn’t feel so completely closed in, he noted.
Other future weapons
Charlton said several promising weapons are in the science and technology and testing stages.
Engineers are now designing extended-range cannons that can be mounted on the Paladin and will fire much greater distances than current artillery, he said, noting that the distances are impressive but classified.
The cannons could find their way on the NGCV, he said.
The challenges are now designing a breech in the gun system that can handle the enormous pressures and getting the APS software and sensors developed. Also, the crew might be adversely affected by the enormous pressures, so some sort of dampening mechanism would be needed.
Another weapon that will eventually make its way to the battlefield is the high-energy laser, Charlton said.
The Army and Air Force are now out at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico using them to knock out air-to-ground and surface-to-air missiles, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles, he said.
A 300-kilowatt laser will be built and tested in the near future, he added.
“We want to ensure the lanes are clear when firing the laser,” he said. “We don’t want to take out one of our own satellites, so it will need to be equipped with an avoidance detection system.”
Lastly, Charlton said that an electromagnetic rail gun will be developed soon, but he’s not sure if it will find its way onto the NGCV. “But it will be on the battlefield in some shape or form,” he said.
The rail gun will shoot small, dense projectiles to distances of 30 kilometers at several times the speed of sound using electromagnetic pulses, he said. That will require some serious power, so initially it might have to be loaded on a large cargo truck.
Dr. Dale Ormond, principal deputy, Research Directorate, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said his office is working to ensure all of the laboratories across the Department of Defense are talking to each other, helping each other and avoiding duplication of effort.
The areas he’s particularly excited about are artificial intelligence paired with autonomy. Machines programmed for artificial learning will be able to collaborate much better with Soldiers and give commanders more options on the battlefield, he said.
Other promising areas are hypersonic weapons, he said, like the rail guns and lasers that the Army is working on.
He said he also expects to see a lot of developments in the space and cyberspace domains, as well as being able to operate in GPS-denied environments.
Marines and sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Navy’s Expeditionary Strike Group 7 crowd this amphibious assault ship’s gym at all hours of the day and night.
Still, some faces in the gym are more common than the rest. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Cary Chase is one of those faces.
“I needed to change my habits,” said Chase, the disbursing chief of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Combat Logistics Battalion 31, who hails from Bonire, Georgia. “I wasn’t happy with where I was physically, but now the gym is my home away from home where I can tune the world out for a while.”
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Cary Chase, from Bonire, Georgia, is the disbursing chief of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Combat Logistics Battalion 31. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jonah Baase)
Rigorous Gym Schedule
Finding that a rigorous gym schedule reinforced the discipline required to manage financial accounts for the 31st MEU’s Marines and sailors, Chase goes to the gym twice a day, every day, and studies nutrition to focus her food intake.
Chase’s ambitions did not stop with becoming more fit. Her passion for weightlifting continued to grow as she won three bodybuilding competitions in gyms from Tokyo to Okinawa, Japan.
“Competitions were the next step to prove to myself that I was making progress,” Chase said. “You don’t see results overnight, and this was how I wanted to test my strength.”
The demands of life in the Marine Corps make physical fitness vital to any Marine’s success. At any time a Marine may be called to get the job done no matter the mission, whether it’s combat or humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
“It’s more than a routine,” Chase said. “It helps me prepare physically and mentally to support my Marines whether it be in a combat zone or day to day operations.”
Once Chase started working out with Sgt. Theresa Batt, a finance technician with CLB-31, from Cleveland, Ohio, Batt said she learned how to be a stronger leader, inside and outside the gym, taking her time to provide mentorship and guidance to her Marines to support their personal and professional goals.
“We became frequent gym partners,” Batt said of Chase. “She corrected my form and wouldn’t let me off the bench until my sets were completed. She doesn’t quit on her Marines, she’s full of energy and always motivates Marines she works and trains with.”
Chase continues to stick with her rigorous workout schedule, training with Batt to ensure they’re ready to meet any challenge.
“We need to be prepared for anything with the world we live in,” Chase said. “A Marine needs to be proficient at their job, and that includes pushing themselves and their peers to be the best they can.”
Congress first introduced a “certificate of merit” in 1847, to be presented by the President when quote “a private soldier distinguishes himself in the service.” It came with a $2 monthly stipend.
Over the years, the award evolved to honor both Army and Navy service members and in July 1862, President Lincoln signed the legislation approving the official Congressional Medal of Honor. At the time, 88 service members had already performed heroic actions that would ultimately merit the decoration.
The stipend evolved, too. Today, the Medal of Honor pension is $1259 per month as well as other benefits like Space-A travel and impressing the hell out of anyone they meet.
Receiving the Medal of Honor confers a great deal of prestige on the recipient as well as an acknowledgement that the recipient and their unit members went through an especially dire and dangerous experience or gave a heavy sacrifice for the American people. The celebrity that goes with the medal allows recipients to cast light on issues that affect veterans and active duty troops.
But in addition to the intangible benefits like honor and stature, there are some tangible benefits that the military and the U.S. government give to medal recipients to acknowledge their sacrifice, such as preferred access to military academies for their dependents and special status in the exchange of salutes. (While military members aren’t required to salute Medal of Honor recipients, they are encouraged to do so as long as the recipient is physically wearing the medal, even when the recipient is in civilian clothes. Also, while military salutes in other situations are always up the rank structure — meaning the junior soldier salutes the senior one — anyone may render a salute to a MoH recipient first. There have even been cases of American presidents saluting MoH recipients.)
There have been over 3,400 Medal of Honor recipients, 71 of whom are still alive today. If you meet one, know that you are in the presence of greatness.